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Democrats Savor Dent In Republican Armor

A day after Democrats won the Kentucky governorship and held onto legislatures in Virginia and Maine, party leaders boasted Wednesday that House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s revolution had “hit a speed bump.” Gingrich acknowledged his disappointment but characterized GOP losses as minor.

“I think we’re doing fine,” Gingrich said. “Right now we have a timeout. They won Kentucky, we won Mississippi.”

The parties split the two Southern governorships that were contested in Tuesday’s off-year elections: GOP Gov. Kirk Fordice easily beat Mississippi’s Democratic secretary of state, Dick Molpus, while Kentucky Lt. Gov. Paul Patton narrowly defeated Republican lawyer Larry Forgy. The Democrat’s margin of victory was 51 percent to 49 percent.

“I think the Republican wave is over,” Patton said Wednesday. “The tide is gone, and it’s going back out to sea. The only question now is how far will it go.”

But Republican party officials noted that Patton ran as a conservative, and had even vowed to oppose President Clinton next year if his administration keeps pushing curbs on tobacco.

“There’s no question that we’re disappointed” about Kentucky, Gingrich said, noting that Forgy came within 22,000 votes - onehalf a percentage point - of winning “against a Democrat who ran as a right-wing Democrat.”

Even the White House wouldn’t read much of a national mandate into Tuesday’s results, which saw the Democrats maintain control of the Maine House, the Mississippi Senate and the Virginia House of Delegates nd gain three seats in the overwhelmingly Republican New Jersey Assembly.

“Everyone of those races had its own dynamic and its own equation,” press secretary Mike McCurry said. “I think Democrats did pretty well across the board.

“I don’t know that you can assess any global impact to a series of races that are important,” he added.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was less restrained.

“The Gingrich revolution hit a speed bump yesterday,” he said. “Voters around the country turned conventional wisdom on its head … by rejecting the extremist agenda of the GOP.”

Tuesday’s results marked the first major victories for Democrats since Clinton was elected in 1992.

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