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GOP wins Senate, holds House, CNN projects

Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Missouri, concedes defeat to Republican Jim Talent.
Sen. Jean Carnahan, D-Missouri, concedes defeat to Republican Jim Talent.

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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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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In a historic night for the GOP and President Bush, Republicans seized control of the Senate, held onto their majority in the House and savored wins in two hot gubernatorial races, CNN projected early Wednesday.

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

No matter what the margin, Republicans were poised to control both the House and the Senate for the remainder of Bush's first term.

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.

"We got things done," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, said late Tuesday.

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)

Control of the Senate tipped to Republicans early Wednesday when Sen. Jean Carnahan of Missouri, a Democrat, conceded defeat to Republican Rep. Jim Talent.

Early Wednesday morning, CNN projected Republican Norm Coleman, former St. Paul mayor, defeated Democratic former Vice President Walter Mondale in the key Minnesota Senate race turned upside-down by the death last month of incumbent Democrat Paul Wellstone in a plane crash.

Coleman's win gives the GOP 51 seats to the Democrats' 46, with one independent senator and two races still undecided.

Still in play: The Senate race in South Dakota, where a vulnerable Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson faces Republican U.S. Rep. John Thune. And in Louisiana, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu was headed into a runoff because early returns indicated she had not grabbed 50 percent of the vote, as required by state law.

Republicans Elizabeth Dole and John Sununu claimed victory in Senate races in North Carolina and New Hampshire respectively. Ditto for Democrat Frank Lautenberg in New Jersey. (More on Senate races)

Two other Senate incumbents were apparently defeated. Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson in Arkansas was beat by Democrat Mark Pryor and Democratic Sen. Max Cleland in Georgia by U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss, according to CNN projections.

CNN political analyst Bill Schneider said it appeared 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, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, claimed re-election to a second term and Democrat Bill McBride conceded defeat.

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

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.

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 have had little effect.

President Bush, who put his prestige on the line by campaigning heavily for GOP candidates, was encouraged by early election returns, aides said, and called Jeb to congratulate him on his victory.(Full story)

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