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Amid Florida presidential tumult, GOP can still count on House and Senate

Election 2000

(CNN) -- With Florida's election returns in enough of a state of flux to send both major party presidential campaigns into a frenzy early this morning, Republicans took some measure of comfort in their ability to retain control of both houses of Congress in this general election year.

Texas Gov. George W. Bush, estimated early Wednesday by CNN and other major news organizations to have secured his new home at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, saw his award stripped away -- at least temporarily -- later, when discrepancies in the Sunshine State's return numbers were brought to the fore.

Bush supporters in Austin, Texas, react to the initial announcement that Bush won the presidency  

CNN retracted its estimate of a Bush win when Florida state officials announced a statewide vote recount. With more than 5 million votes counted in the state, Gore and Bush would appear to be separated by approximately 220 votes.

Florida holds 25 electoral votes -- enough to boost either of the two over the required 270-vote total needed for an unquestionable win in the Electoral College.

Florida, it would seem, now holds the future of the presidency in the balance.

Democratic Vice President Al Gore placed a call retracting his earlier concession to Bush in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Gore called Bush for a second time Wednesday morning in Austin, Texas, to inform him that he wasn't ready to concede the race. He then dispatched his campaign manager, former Commerce Secretary Bill Daley, to tell a crowd assembled under a steady rain in Nashville, Tennessee, that the Gore campaign would continue until the confusion in Florida was straightened out.

Gore and Bush
Vice President Gore and his wife Tipper, at left, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush and his wife Laura after casting their votes  

"This race is simply too close to call," Daley said. "Let me say I have been in politics a very long time, but I don't think there has ever been a night like this one."

Daley's address was followed up in Austin with a brief early morning appearance by Don Evans, the manager of the Bush campaign. Evans said the Republicans too were content to wait out Florida, as Florida's Republican governor, Bush's younger brother Jeb, spent the night cloistered in the Texas capital with the extended Bush family.

"I am confident that when all is said and done, we will prevail," Evans said.

Still, the Republican Party had a lot to smile about with the outcome of other races.

CNN estimated that the GOP held its majority in both houses of Congress.

The Senate majority held even though Missouri incumbent GOP Sen. John Ashcroft was beaten by the late state Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan, who was killed in an October plane crash. Carnahan's wife is likely to be appointed to the seat by Missouri's governor in his stead, but the election outcome could be contested in court.

Legislative picture takes shape

The race to control Congress was under close scrutiny into the night, as the Republicans, who now hold tight majorities in the House and Senate, sought to retain their advantage. By early morning Wednesday, Republican retention of both chambers was safe, though the full makeup of the House or Senate could not yet be determined.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
CNN estimates that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has defeated Rep. Rick Lazio in the New York Senate race  

Of the Senate's 100 seats, 34 were up for consideration. As the 106th session rolls to a close, the Republicans hold 54 of the full complement of seats, the Democrats 46. That means the Democrats needed to pick up five seats for a slim 51-seat majority.

They were certain not to do so by Wednesday morning, though the seat distribution in the Senate remained in doubt.

CNN estimated winners in a number of significant Senate races as returns were counted overnight.

In New York, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton bested Long Island Republican Rep. Rick Lazio for the Senate seat that is to be vacated by retiring Senate stalwart Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

"Wow!" Clinton exclaimed after Lazio delivered his concession speech. "I'm profoundly grateful to all of you for giving me the chance to serve you," she said, as her daughter Chelsea, President Clinton and Moynihan stood behind her on stage in New York.

"I will do everything I can to honor your faith and trust," Clinton said.

The president reacted with joy to the news of his wife's victory, which was sure to soothe some of the pain of watching his vice president's fortunes rise, fall and rise again as Tuesday became Wednesday.

"I'm the first president in history with a wife in the Senate, and I like it," Clinton told Las Vegas radio station KCET.

The Republicans did suffer other setbacks in the Senate, though not enough to significantly affect the party-to-party ratio.

Democratic Gov. Tom Carper defeated Republican William Roth in the Delaware Senate race  

A long familiar face in the Senate, the aged Delaware Republican William Roth, the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, lost to state Democratic Gov. Tom Carper. Embattled GOP incumbent Sen. Rod Grams of Minnesota also lost his bid to return to Congress' upper chamber. Grams was defeated by Democrat Mark Dayton, a former state auditor.

In Florida, Democrat Bill Nelson defeated Republican Rep. Bill McCollum, a one-time "manager" in the congressional impeachment trial of President Clinton for the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Connie Mack.

Three sitting Republicans were returned by voters to the chamber -- Jim Jeffords of Vermont, Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Conrad Burns of Montana. Three prominent Democrats also returned, including Robert Byrd of West Virginia and Zell Miller of Georgia. Miller was appointed to succeed the late Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell, who passed away earlier this year.

The third of that group was Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who also stands to walk into the vice presidency of the United States if things turn Gore's way in Florida. Should that happen, Connecticut's Republican governor would then be free to appoint Lieberman's replacement.

And, in synch with the unusual new ground broken as the presidential contest ground on, the Washington state Senate contest between Democrat Maria Cantwell and Republican Slade Gorton was moved back to the realm of those races "too close to call." Initial estimates had tabbed Cantwell to oust Gorton, but a recount will now take place across the state.

The House side of the Capitol

The GOP looks on Wednesday morning to be set to keep the House -- marking the first time the party has held the chamber for four consecutive two-year sessions since the 1920s. Ratios were unclear, but Republicans hoped to pick up some seats to bolster their lead as West Coast races were called.

"We're cautiously optimistic," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, told CNN earlier in the night -- after the GOP picked a handful of coveted seats. "We're doing as well as we can expect, it's going to be a long night and we have to see what happens in California."

House Speaker Dennis Hastert retains his seat in Congress  

Of 435 seats in the House, the Republicans now hold 222 to the Democrats' 209. There are two independents in the chamber, one of whom routinely sides with the Democrats, the other with the GOP. There are also two vacant seats, left open following recent lawmaker deaths.

The 106th Congress is still in session; members are expected to return to work following Tuesday's national vote.

Democrats had hinged their hopes of picking up the needed seven seats for control of the 107th Congress on California, but appeared to have fallen short of the goal by Wednesday morning after Republican incumbents fared better than expected in the East and Midwest.

In a closely watched Kentucky House race, incumbent Rep. Anne Northup defeated state Democratic Rep. Eleanor Jordan, based on CNN estimates. The Northup-Jordan race was pegged by many political observers as one that may send signals about the party ratios in the House through the next two-year congressional session.

And though the Republicans scored some impressive wins in the House, some of their impeachment managers -- who prosecuted their case against President Clinton in the Senate's early 1999 trial -- were targeted by the Democrats for removal this year.

One of them fell.

In California's closely watched 27th District, CNN estimated that state Sen. Adam Schiff defeated Rep. Jim Rogan, a member of the Judiciary Committee and one-time member of that panel's elite impeachment management team.

Schiff received more votes than Rogan in the state's open March primary, and the district has become increasingly Democratic as a result of demographic changes in recent months.

In Georgia, former House impeachment manager Rep. Bob Barr defeated wealthy Democratic challenger Roger Kahn in the state's 7th district outside Atlanta, by CNN estimates.

Democratic efforts to win California's 15th District appeared to have paid off with a win for labor loyalist Mike Honda over moderate GOP candidate Jim Cuneen, CNN estimated.

And in an upset, GOP candidate Rob Simmons ousted 10-term Democratic Rep. Sam Gejdenson in Connecticut's 2nd District, by CNN estimates. During the campaign, Simmons accused his opponent, who spends most of his time at his wife's home in a neighboring district, of ignoring constituent concerns.

Gejdenson has played a significant role as a minority member of the House International Relations Committee.

Meanwhile, 11 governorships were contested Tuesday night.

In CNN estimates, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen retained her post as governor of New Hampshire, winning over former U.S. Sen. Gordon Humphrey. In North Carolina, state Democratic Attorney General Mike Easley won the governorship, defeating former Charlotte Mayor Richard Vinroot.

In one of the night's earliest projected governor's races, Democrat Frank O'Bannon defeated maverick Republican Rep. David McIntosh to retain the Indiana governor's mansion.

In West Virginia, Republican Cecil Underwood was ousted by Democratic Rep. Bob Wise.

Vermont's Democratic Gov. Howard Dean kept his seat, fending off a challenge from Republican Ruth Dwyer and progressive Anthony Pollina.






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