President Bush’s campaign is claiming victory in yesterday’s race but as of this morning CNN and other news organizations are saying the race is still close to call. The presidency now hinges on the state of Ohio. Based on ballots cast yesterday, Bush won the state by about 135,000 votes. But the Kerry camp has refused to concede the race because hundreds of thousands of provisional ballots still need to be counted. At 2:30 this morning, Senator Edwards made a brief appearance in Boston vowing that the race was not over. He said, “We will fight for every vote.” Kerry Campaign Manager Mary Beth Cahill added “The vote count in Ohio has not been completed. There are more than 250,000 remaining votes to be counted. We believe when they are, John Kerry will win Ohio.” But three hours later White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card claimed that Bush had an insurmountable lead in Ohio and was certain to win a second term.
As of 7 this morning, CNN projected Bush winning 254 electoral votes to Kerry’s 252 with three states still not called: Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico. Whichever candidate wins Ohio wins the presidency. If Bush holds onto Ohio and wins a second term, the 2004 election will be seen as a major success for the Republican Party. Bush has easily won the popular vote by nearly 4 million — a marked difference from four years ago when Al Gore beat Bush in the popular vote by 500,000. And the Republicans appear set to strengthen its control in both the Senate and the House.
In South Dakota, Republican John Thune ousted the top Democrat in the Senate, Tom Daschle.
And social conservatives have succeeded at the ballot as well. 11 states appear to have approved bans on same sex marriage.
In Arizona, voters have approved one of the country’s harshest anti-immigration measures that could strip undocumented workers from benefiting from any public services.
In other ballot initiatives, voters in California approved a measure to spend $3 billion in state funds to be used for embryonic stem cell research.
b>Barack Obama Wins Illinois Senate Seat
One of the few outright victories Democrats can claim came in Illinois where Barack Obama easily beat Alan Keyes to become just the third African American to serve in the Senate since Reconstruction.
But earlier yesterday Democrats were expressing far more based on early exit polls. The Zogby poll predicted Kerry would win 311 electoral votes and easily win the presidency. Exit polls in Ohio, Florida and Penn. showed Kerry winning all three key battleground states. Some polls showed Kerry beating Bush by as many as 3 or 4 percent in Florida but the final numbers had Bush beating Kerry by 5 percentage points.
The International Herald Tribune reported observers from the European-based Organization for Security and Cooperation said they had less access to polls than in Kazakhstan and that the electronic voting had fewer fail-safes than in Venezuela. Election observer Konrad Olszewski said, “To be honest, monitoring elections in Serbia a few months ago was much simpler. They have one national election law and use the paper ballots I really prefer over any other system. Another observer, Ron Gould, criticized the electronic voting machines that gave voters no receipt. Gould said, “Each electronic vote in Venezuela also produces a ticket that voters then drop into a ballot box. Unlike fully electronic systems, this gives a backup that can be used to counter claims of massive fraud.”
Election protection groups reported receiving tens of thousands of complaints from voters who experienced problems but widespread problems of voter intimidation or suppression did not appear to materialize. In Ohio some voters were forced to wait in line over six hours due to a shortage of working voting machines.
Meanwhile the war in Iraq continues. A new poll out of Iraq found that the nearly 60 percent of Iraqis felt the U.S. elections didn’t matter to them because they felt U.S. policy toward Iraq will not change regardless of who wins.
In news from Iraq, Al Jazeera has obtained a video showing kidnapped humanitarian worker Margaret Hassan. According to the network, the video shows Hassan pleading for her life and then fainting. Her captors then threw a buck of water over her to revive her. Hassan then struggled to her feet while crying. The 59-year-old Hassan has been held hostage for two weeks. Al Jazeera decided not to air the video on humanitarian grounds.
In other Iraq news, a senior official in the Iraqi oil ministry was assassinated today as he traveled to work. And a US contractor of Lebanese decent has been kidnapped last night after gun men raided his home.