(CNN) — White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said early Wednesday that the Bush-Cheney campaign is convinced President Bush has won re-election.
“President Bush decided to give Sen. Kerry the respect of more time to reflect on the results of this election,” Card said at the Reagan Federal Building in Washington. “The president will be making a statement later today.”
Bush appeared to be on the cusp of winning a second term, building a popular vote lead of more than 3.7 million votes.
He moved tantalizingly close to winning an Electoral College majority with a lead in the key battleground state of Ohio, though the Buckeye State remained too close for CNN to call.
Meanwhile, Republicans are projected to retain control of the House and Senate, adding to their majorities in both chambers with strong showings in Southern states.
In South Dakota, former GOP Rep. John Thune claimed victory over the Senate’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Tom Daschle.
So far, Bush is projected to have won 28 states, with 254 electoral votes, and a win in Ohio would assure him of at least 274 votes, more than the 270 he needs for a majority Electoral College.
But the Kerry Campaign early Wednesday refused to concede defeat, insisting that 250,000 provisional and absentee ballots cast in the Buckeye State might change the outcome.
“The vote count in Ohio has not been completed,” said campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill. “We believe when they are, John Kerry will win Ohio.”
Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell said that by law provisional and absentee ballots won’t be counted until 11 days after the election. He said he could not immediately put an estimate on the number of those ballots, but he said 250,000 might not be out of the realm of possibility.
While he said the exact number of provisional ballots was unknown, he said it is “trending toward 175,000.”
Blackwell suggested “everybody just take a deep breath and relax.”
Kerry’s running mate, Sen. John Edwards, said, “We’ve waited four years for this victory, so we can wait one more night.”
Kerry is projected the winner in Wisconsin.
Iowa election officials blamed broken machines, a delay in opening absentee ballots and apparent fatigue for delaying the secretary of state’s report of a final count until some time Wednesday.
New Mexico is too close to call and will not release presidential election results until later Wednesday because thousands of absentee ballots remain uncounted, according to a spokesman for the secretary of state.
That leaves Bush with 254 Electoral College votes to Kerry’s 252, with Iowa, New Mexico and Ohio still to be awarded.
The key turning point in Tuesday’s election came when Bush carried Florida, which the president won four years ago by just 537 votes after a lengthy dispute. This time around, though, there was no question who won the Sunshine State, where Bush’s margin was more than 370,000 votes.
Very few states switched from the party of four years ago. New Hampshire, which Bush narrowly won in 2000, went for Kerry. Bush has so far carried no state carried by Democrat Al Gore four years ago, although he leads in two, Iowa and New Mexico.
GOP projected to keep control of Congress
GOP candidates are projected to win open Democratic seats in four Southern states and were ahead in a fifth, Florida. The party also is projected to keep vulnerable Republican seats in Oklahoma and Kentucky and to lead in a third, Alaska.
The only GOP setbacks were projected in Illinois, where rising Democratic star Barack Obama took the seat vacated by retiring GOP Sen. Peter Fitzgerald, and in Colorado, where Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar projected to beat beer magnate Pete Coors in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell.
Those results, coupled with the projected Daschle loss in South Dakota, would give the Republicans a net gain of four seats, making the lineup in the new Senate 55 Republicans, 44 Democrats and one independent.
Daschle could be the first Senate party leader to lose his seat in 52 years.
In the battle for the 435 House seats, Republicans are projected to retain their majority, winning at least 226 seats with 10 races still up in the air.
GOP candidates are projected to pick up six Democratic seats — five of them in Texas, where a controversial redistricting plan pushed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay redrew the state’s map to make it more Republican-friendly.
In addition, two other veteran Texas Democrats forced by the new map to run against Republican incumbents — Reps. Charles Stenholm and Martin Frost — also are projected to lose.
Democrats are projected to take a Republican seat in Illinois, where Melissa Bean defeated veteran GOP Rep. Phil Crane.
If projections hold, it will be the sixth consecutive election in which the GOP has held the majority.
Of the 11 gubernatorial races, close contests are expected in Missouri, New Hampshire and Washington.
In Indiana, CNN is projecting a big win for former Bush administration official Mitch Daniels over Indiana Gov. Joe Kernan.
Six months after gay and lesbian couples won the right to marry in Massachusetts, opponents of same-sex marriage struck back Tuesday, with voters in 11 states projected to approve constitutional amendments codifying marriage as exclusively being between a man and a woman.
California voters, who faced 16 statewide ballot measures, are projected to pass a measure to establish a constitutional right to conduct research using stem cells and to authorize $3 billion for such research.
A ballot measure approving the use of marijuana for medical reasons is projected to pass in Montana.
Colorado voters are projected to reject a proposal to change its winner-take-all to allocated electoral votes for presidential candidates.
A Florida measure to require parental notification before minors can obtain an abortion is projected to passed.
Gambling is another hot ballot issue, with six states deciding 13 measures.