Dems Take the House, But Virginia, Montana Key to Senate Control - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Dems Take the House, But Virginia, Montana Key to Senate Control

Democrats are set to take control of the House of Representatives, with ABC News projecting that they will pick up between 28 and 36 seats. But the Senate remains up for grabs as hotly contested races in Virginia and Montana are too close to call.

In Virginia, Democrat Jim Webb declared victory over Republican Sen. George Allen an hour before Allen told his supporters that the vote count would continue into today.

There are no automatic recounts in Virginia, but state law allows a candidate who finishes half a percentage point or less behind to request one. With a margin greater than half a point but less than one percentage point, the trailing candidate can also seek a recount.

Jean Jensen, secretary of the state Board of Elections in Virginia, told ABC News that if a recount is requested, it would not start until Nov. 28 because of the state's elaborate set of rules and laws governing the vote certification and recount processes.

And in Montana, election results may not come until later today because of problems with the voting equipment. In Yellowstone County, the largest in Montana, election officials said early today that they were recounting all votes because of unfamiliarity with new equipment. Officials told ABC News that they did not think they would have the recount completed until approximately 8 a.m. ET.

Because the Democrats would have to win both of those races to control the Senate, and Virginia may be unsettled for some time, there is no way ABC News can project the Senate for the Democrats. If it becomes clear that Republicans have won Montana, then we will be able to project that the Republicans will retain their majority there.

Barring the unexpected, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will become Speaker of the House of Representatives - and third in line for the presidency - come January.

Meanwhile, Democrats have gained a majority of the nations's governor's seats for the first time in 12 years. There will be Democrats in 28 statehouses, reverseing the advantage the Republicans currently hold.

Anger Over Iraq

In exit polls, voters made it clear that while they were voting in local races, their concerns were national - many of them trying to send the White House a message about the war in Iraq.

So far, there is not a single House, Senate or governor's race in which a Republican is projected to have ousted a Democrat, although many Republican incumbents were easily returned to office.

President Bush has not yet commented on the election, calling a news conference for today at 1 p.m. ET. "We're disappointed with the verdict in the House," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "You'll hear from the president at the press conference."

She added, "The Senate is too close to call for us to make any broad judgements, but we are liking the position we are in."

Major Races, High Stakes

A few of the headliners:

RHODE ISLAND: In a close Senate race, ABC News projects that Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse has beaten the Republican incumbent, Sen. Lincoln Chafee. Chafee had distanced himself from the Bush White House, and polls show that 62 percent of Rhode Islanders approved of his performance - but in a heavily Democratic state, people were voting for change. Sixty-three percent of those polled said they wanted Democrats running the U.S. Senate.

PENNSYLVANIA: Democrat Robert Casey unseated incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum, the No. 3 person in the Senate's Republican leadership. Exit polls show voters were disgruntled with Republican leadership, especially on the war in Iraq.

TENNESSEE: This went Republican, with Bob Corker squeezing out a victory over Democratic Rep. Harold Ford Jr. The seat had been held by Bill Frist, who is stepping down as Senate Majority Leader.

For up-to-the-minute results in all of today's races, check out ABC News' ELECTION SCORECARD

OHIO: We project that Democrat Sherrod Brown will unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Mike DeWine. As in many other states, exit polls show this race was largely a referendum on Bush: Six in 10 voters there disapproved of the president's performance, and of those, more than 85 percent voted Democratic in the Senate race.

In Ohio's gubernatorial race, Democrat Ted Strickland appears to have beaten Republican Kenneth Blackwell in an open contest. This was a governorship that had been in Republican hands.

CONNECTICUT: Sen. Joe Lieberman, running as an independent, defeated Democratic challenger Ned Lamont - even though Lamont had beaten him in the Democratic primary. Lieberman has vowed to vote with the Democrats in the Senate.

NEW JERSEY: We project that Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez has defeated Republican challenger Thomas Kean Jr. This was a campaign that Democratic managers said they had to hold if they had hopes of winning a majority in the Senate.

Elsewhere, veteran Senate Democrats coasted to re-election - Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York, Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, and Robert Byrd in West Virginia. Debbie Stabenow, the Democratic incumbent in Michigan, held on despite the state's economic woes.

Republican Victories

Many Republican incumbents were easily returned to office: Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchinson in Texas, Trent Lott in Mississippi, and Olympia Snowe in Maine, among others. Richard Lugar easily kept his seat in Indiana; Democrats did not challenge him.

In a close race, Republican Jon Kyl is projected to hold onto his Senate seat in Arizona, beating out Democratic challenger Jim Pederson.

Republican governors Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, Rick Perry of Texas, Sonny Perdue of Georgia, Bob Riley of Alabama and Mark Sanford of South Carolina have all been re-elected.

In Florida, Republican Charles Crist won the seat being vacated by Jeb Bush, the president's brother.

While Democrats have made gains, that does not necessarily mean that liberalism did. Several states - including Colorado, Idaho, Wisconsin, Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee - passed referenda defining marriage as the union between a man and a woman, rejecting calls to legalize gay marriage.

In Michigan, ABC News projects that voters passed a proposition banning public institutions from considering race or sex in hiring or college admissions - a defeat for advocates of affirmative action programs.

On the other hand, a measure to ban abortion in South Dakota appears to have been defeated.

A Referendum on Mr. Bush

Parties that hold the White House tend to lose congressional seats at midterm - but George W. Bush has the lowest approval rating of any president at this point since Harry Truman in 1950. Four out of 10 people told exit polls they disapprove of Bush's performance in office, and if they did, that was more important to them than the candidate in their own state.

Take, for instance, New Jersey - a state where both major candidates hurled attack ads at each other. Both messages stuck - and the Democrat won, anyhow.

Republican Thomas Kean Jr., son of a popular former governor, said Democrat Bob Menendez was corrupt and people could expect "more federal investigations" if Menendez won.

Menendez, for his part, painted Kean as a rubber-stamp vote for the Bush administration - never mind that Kean supported federal funding for stem-cell research, and called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

What do the exit polls show there? Sixty-two percent say they believe Menendez lacks high ethical standards, but 53 percent want a Democratic majority in Congress.

Traditional Republicans Go Democratic

Here are some numbers from Gary Langer, director of ABC News' Polling Unit:

- So far, exit polls show men voted Democratic by a margin of 52 percent to 46 percent - though this number could change as more results come in. If it holds up, it will be the first Republican loss among male voters overall since 1992.

- Women, so far, are voting Democratic by a margin of 57 percent to 41 percent - the largest majority since 1986.

- Independents appear to be voting Democratic by a 59 percent to 37 percent margin. They haven't leaned that far since 1982.

- White Catholic voters told polltakers they voted Democratic by a margin of 52 percent to 46 percent. Compare that to two years ago, when, in House races, they went Republican by a margin of 9 points.

One last set of numbers: 10 percent of voters told exit polls they waited until Election Day to decide how they would vote. And of that group, an overwhelming majority - 61 percent to 36 percent - went Democratic.

Source: ABC NewsOne

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