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GOP savors projected wins

Florida Gov. Bush headed for second term, CNN projects

Projected winners: Democrat Frank Lautenberg, Republican Elizabeth Dole
Projected winners: Democrat Frank Lautenberg, Republican Elizabeth Dole

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CNN projects that Republican Elizabeth Dole has defeated Former Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles in the North Carolina race for Senate. CNN's Jeanne Meserve reports (November 5)
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CNN projects Republican Jeb Bush will return as governor of Florida defeating Democrat Bill McBride. CNN's Bill Hemmer reports (November 5)
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CNN's John Zarrella reports that there were no known major voting problems in Florida (November 5)
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Senate: Before the death of Democrat Paul Wellstone in October, Democrats had a 50-49 advantage in the Senate. Thirty-four Senate seats are contested.
House: 223 Republicans, 208 Democrats, one independent and three vacant seats formerly held by Democrats. All 435 House seats are being contested.
Governors: There are 27 Republican governors and 21 Democrats across the country. Thirty-six governorships are up for election, including that of President Bush's brother Jeb in Florida. Four of the past five presidents have served as governors.
In addition, there are 200 ballot initiatives in 38 states ranging from election reform and legalizing marijuana to same-sex marriages and a ban on cockfighting.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In what could turn out to be a big night for the GOP and President Bush, Republicans Tuesday night were projected to hold onto their control of the U.S. House, savored apparent wins in two hot gubernatorial races and inched closer toward regaining control of the U.S. Senate.

Returns were still coming in, but it appeared possible that Republicans could build on the six-seat majority in the House they held going into the elections.

Any GOP gains in Congress would mark a reversal of historic trends where the party in the White House typically loses seats in the midterm races.

Republicans Elizabeth Dole and John Sununu appeared headed to victory in Senate races in North Carolina and New Hampshire respectively. And in Georgia, CNN projected Republican Saxby Chambliss was the victor in his race against Democratic incumbent Sen. Max Cleland. (More on Senate races)

In what would be good news for Democrats, CNN projected that Democrat Mark Pryor would defeat Republican incumbent Sen. Tim Hutchinson in Arkansas. And Democrat Frank Lautenberg was the projected winner in his Senate race in New Jersey.

CNN political analyst Bill Schneider said it appeared that President Bush's intensive campaigning on behalf of GOP candidates was paying off. "President Bush was a very big factor," Schneider said.

In gubernatorial races, CNN projected that Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, was headed toward re-election to a second term and would defeat Democrat Bill McBride.

And Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend conceded to Republican Robert Ehrlich in Maryland, a state that has not elected a GOP governor in almost three decades. (More on governors' races)

The pivotal question of who would control the Senate -- composed of 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans and two independents heading into the election -- hinged on the outcome of a handful of races. Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu was heading into a runoff because early returns indicted she had not grabbed 50 percent of the vote, as required by Louisiana law.

Remaining states to watch: Missouri, Colorado, Minnesota and South Dakota.

"I suspect ... we won't know who's going to be in control of the Senate until tomorrow morning, maybe even for days," Senate Minority Leader Trent, R-Mississippi, told CNN Tuesday evening.

Early Tuesday evening, Voter News Service, a vote-counting group used by major news organizations, cited dissatisfaction with its exit poll analysis and said it would not release any "national surveys of voter attitudes" on election night. (Full story)

Voter turnout was reported higher than normal in some states, and no major problems with polling sites were reported. (Electronic voting) Poor weather -- which typically decreases voter turnout substantially -- seemed to be having little effect.

President Bush and Laura Bush settled in at the White House for a night of watching elections returns after voting in Crawford, Texas.

The president, who campaigned heavily for GOP candidates, flashed a thumbs-up as he returned to Washington and later called Jeb to congratulate him on his projected victory.

Democratic senators are considered vulnerable in South Dakota, where Tim Johnson faces Republican U.S. Rep. John Thune, and in Missouri, where former Rep. Jim Talent is challenging incumbent Jean Carnahan.

In a key Senate contest in Minnesota, former Vice President Walter Mondale faced former St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman in a race turned upside-down by the death last month of incumbent Democrat Paul Wellstone in a plane crash.

GOP wants to buck trend

The president's party historically loses support in Congress in midterm races. But with Bush's approval rating in the 60 percent range, the White House has increasingly expressed optimism that Republicans will buck that trend.

If Republicans gain seats in the House, it would be the first time since 1934 that the president's party gained in the off-year elections of his first term. (More on House races)

Bush has invested considerably in several races, putting his prestige on the line in the process. (Full story)

In the long term, the gubernatorial races -- where there are 20 open seats -- may have greater political resonance. Four of the last five presidents were governors.

CNN Correspondents Bob Franken, John King, Gary Tuchman and John Zarrella, and Producer Sean Loughlin contributed to this report.

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