Senate Democrats selected Sen. Thomas Daschle Friday as their minority leader for the next Congress, opting for a young, amiable lawmaker with scant experience in the national limelight.
Down the hall in the Capitol Building, the incoming Republican majority chose Sen. Bob Dole to be majority leader for the second time in his career. But the GOP senators, in a 27-26 vote, chose Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., an ally of Dole's possible presidential rival, for their No. 2 job.Daschle, a two-term South Dakota Democrat, defeated the more feisty, combative Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., to succeed Majority Leader George Mitchell, D-Maine, who is retiring.
The leadership votes Friday by lawmakers who will begin official business in January could affect the tone and politics of the chamber for the next several years.
Now minority leader, Dole, R-Kan., was unopposed in his quest to lead his party in the majority beginning in January. But his top lieutenant, veteran Whip Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., was being challenged by the conservative Lott, an ally of presidential aspirant Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas.
There were few ideological differences between the two contenders in either contest, being decided by secret ballots as Democrats and Republicans met separately in the Capitol. Their main distinctions were over style, and in each case a man with an easygoing persona was being opposed by one with more pugnacious tendencies.
The tall, gangly Simpson has been Dole's No. 2 man since 1985. Now 63, his relaxed manner is spiced with a sharp, folksy wit that has sometimes gotten him into clashes - frequently with the press. His credentials are mostly conservative, although he has favored abortion rights.
Lott, 53, is a hard-charging former House whip with close ties to incoming House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. He is also an ally of Sen. Phil Gramm, R-Texas, who is likely to challenge Dole for the GOP presidential nomination in 1996.