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America waits for new president; GOP edge in Congress narrows

WASHINGTON (BP)–The fates of not only the election for the White House but the future makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court and probably some contentious moral issues hung in the balance the day after voting as Americans waited to find out who their next president will be.

Meanwhile, the Republican majorities in both houses of Congress will be smaller or, in the case of the U.S. Senate, possibly nonexistent as a result of the Nov. 7 election.

Democrats apparently gained at least three seats in the Senate. If they win in the state of Washington, they will knot the chamber at 50-50. That race between Republican Sen. Slade Gorton and Democratic challenger Maria Cantwell was still undecided as of mid-day Nov. 8.

Republicans held off the Democrats’ effort to take back control of the House of Representatives but will have a smaller advantage in the fourth term of their majority. As of mid-day Nov. 8, Republicans held 218 post-election seats, Democrats 211 and independents two, according to CNN. The votes in four races were being recounted. The GOP controls 223 seats in the current House.

In a myriad of state initiatives, the results were mixed on such issues as homosexuality, gambling, the sanctity of human life and the legalization of drugs.

In the race for the White House, Texas Gov. George W. Bush reportedly held a lead of less than 1,800 votes over Vice President Al Gore in Florida as a recount of that state’s more than 5 million ballots cast was begun the morning after the election. Whoever wins Florida’s 25 electoral votes — the Republican Bush or the Democrat Gore — will become the next president.

With the results in Florida and Oregon, with seven electoral votes, too close to call, Gore had 260 electoral votes and Bush 246. Florida’s count will put either candidate over the 270 electoral votes needed for victory. It appeared it would be the evening of Nov. 8 or sometime Nov. 9 before the recount was completed. Even then, challenges to the results could produce further delays in a clear outcome.

If Bush were to win the presidency, it appeared he would do so without achieving the most popular votes. Gore led in that category at the national level.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said on the agency’s radio program Nov. 8 the voting and exit polls showed the United States is a “deeply divided nation, desperately in search of consensus.”

“We are a nation with no clear consensus on many very important issues, with a presidential election that is so close that it will be decided by several thousand votes in one state,” Land said on the “For Faith and Family” national broadcast.

“Yet we as Americans all agree to abide peacefully by the results of this election even while anticipating the next election, and we agree that we should pray for our president-elect, whatever his party affiliation.

“And as Christians, we are to pray for the spiritual awakening of our nation, which is the only real solution to our nation’s ills. Our hope should not be in elections but in a spiritual awakening. Until that day, we will continue to be afflicted by the ills that come from rebellion against God.”

Land cited exit polling reported by Fox News that showed 46 percent of voters wanted more conservative government policies, 40 percent desired policies to remain as they are and 10 percent wanted more liberal policies.

In other exit polling, white religious conservatives chose Bush overwhelmingly, while homosexual and bisexual voters selected Gore by nearly as great a margin. “White religious right” voters went for Bush 79 to 19 percent, according to a Washington Post/Voters News Service exit poll. Those voters constituted 14 percent of the electorate, according to the poll.

Homosexuals and bisexuals voted for Gore by 71 to 24 percent, the poll reported. They made up 4 percent of the electorate, according to the poll.

In other results of the exit poll, Protestants favored Bush, while Catholics, Jews and the nonreligious went for Gore.

The stakes in the presidential race are high, especially in regards to the Supreme Court. The winner may have the opportunity to nominate as many as four justices in the next four years.

That forecast became a significant issue in the campaign, especially in the hands of abortion advocates and opponents. Gore said in his first of three debates with Bush his choices for the high court and other federal judgeships would “very likely” uphold a right to abortion. Bush said his appointees would “strictly interpret” the Constitution, giving pro-lifers hopes he would name judges opposed to the 1973 Roe v. Wade opinion legalizing abortion.

Currently, however, seven of the Supreme Court’s nine justices are Republican nominees, and only three oppose Roe v. Wade.

The court’s future on the continuing question of homosexual rights also may be affected by whether Bush or Gore wins the election.

Who is president also would determine the fate of a variety of issues in Congress, including efforts to restrict abortion. Bush has said he supports parental notification for a minor’s abortion and a ban on partial-birth abortion, a gruesome procedure performed on a nearly totally delivered child in the fifth or sixth month of pregnancy. Gore opposes both efforts.

If Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft’s defeat stands up in the Senate, at least three solid pro-life senators will have gone down to defeat. In addition to the Missouri senator, Republicans Spencer Abraham of Michigan and Rod Grams of Minnesota lost.

Pro-lifers made a net gain, however, in pro-life Republican John Ensign of Nevada and another net addition on at least some abortion votes in George Allen’s defeat of Democratic incumbent Chuck Robb in Virginia. Also, Democrat Ben Nelson may turn out to be a pro-life addition from Nebraska.

In the Senate’s most closely watched race, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton easily defeated Republican Rick Lazio. Afterward, Kate Michelman, president of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said in a written statement abortion rights supporters “can count on Hillary to side with the women of this nation in the face of any assault on Roe and their reproductive freedom.”

In the House, well-known evangelical Christians Steve Largent and J.C. Watts, both of Oklahoma, and Jim Ryun of Kansas all won decisively.

On state measures, voters in Nebraska and Nevada approved bans on same-sex marriages, but an effort in Oregon to prohibit the promotion of homosexuality in public schools appeared to be going down to defeat.

Anti-gambling forces won in such states as Arkansas and Maine but lost in such places as South Carolina and South Dakota.

Voters in Colorado convincingly turned back a proposal to require a 24-hour waiting period for an abortion, while Maine defeated a measure that would have legalized physician-assisted suicide.

Alaska voters defeated an effort to legalize marijuana for a variety of uses, but approval of the drug for medicinal purposes passed in Colorado and Nevada.
Dwayne Hastings contributed to this article.