Sunday, February 14, 1999

Impeachment vote may follow DeWine

Effect on 2000 Senate race debated

Enquirer Washington Bureau

        WASHINGTON — In his first four years in the U.S. Senate, Republican Mike DeWine has gained recognition as a thoughtful and highly productive legislator, even if he shows more moderate stripes than some of his fellow conservatives would like.

        But there is a wild card in the deck: the impeachment trial of President Clinton.

        Polls show that a majority of the public did not want the Senate to convict and remove the president.

        This poses a political challenge for Mr. DeWine when he runs for re-election in 2000 in a state that President Clinton carried in 1992 and 1996.

        Mr. DeWine, 52, voted to convict Mr. Clinton on both articles. He was also a leader among Republicans pushing for a full trial, with witnesses and no shortcuts.

        The potential political impact of the trial on Mr. DeWine and other Republican senators is a matter of considerable debate already.

        “These are very difficult decisions, and you and I should both be glad we are not having to make them,” said Mark Rom, associate dean of the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute.

        On the other hand, Democratic political operatives contend that those who voted to convict Mr. Clinton will pay at the ballot box.

        “They couldn't have bigger political trouble,” said prominent Democratic political consultant Mark Mellman.

        The Ohio Democratic Party quickly jumped on Mr. DeWine's votes to convict with partisan rhetoric.

        “DeWine repeatedly voted to expand the impeachment trial and in the end he couldn't back down from his partisan perch to serve the families he represents,” party chairman David Leland said in a statement.

        Mr. DeWine has denied concern about the political implications.

        One of Mr. DeWine's Tristate colleagues, Sen. Mitch McConnell, has predicted the trial will have “zero impact” on 2000 races because it will likely be ancient history to voters by then.

        Mr. McConnell is chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which oversees the campaigns of Republican Senate candidates.

        Herb Asher, political analyst at Ohio State University, also doubts Mr. DeWine will suffer much.

        “He has been consistent in his position,” Mr. Asher said.

        Others think that other factors will play a role.

        “I think to a large degree it depends on whether or not the kind of adverse public reaction to impeachment encourages strong challengers,” said John Bibby, political analyst at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

        A Republican senator, he added, could always claim principle as a defense.

        The National Journal recently listed Mr. DeWine as potentially vulnerable if Democrats can find a strong challenger. In 1994, Mr. DeWine, former lieutenant governor from Greene County, coasted to a win over Joel Hyatt, who started the legal services chain.

        Most observers believe if the impeachment issue doesn't harm him, Mr. DeWine should enter the stretch run of his first term in good shape.

        “He gets recognized as part of a reasonable group of senators who are sincerely trying to find solutions to problems,” said Mr. Asher.


- Impeachment vote may follow DeWine
Bury hatchet? Perhaps, but in whose back?
Polls support acquittal
Pundits debate fallout
Clinton Under Fire page