Final Call: Kerry Wins Narrow Electoral Margin; GOP Gains in House, Senate NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin answers your questions. This week: Rudin gives his call on who will win the White House, and how control of Congress will swing.
NPR logo Final Call: Kerry Wins Narrow Electoral Margin; GOP Gains in House, Senate

Final Call: Kerry Wins Narrow Electoral Margin; GOP Gains in House, Senate

Vote as you please, but please vote. hide caption

toggle caption

No Republican has won a Louisiana Senate seat since Reconstruction, but Jenkins came close in '96. hide caption

toggle caption

The last time the Boston Red Sox won the World Series, in 1918, Calvin Coolidge was elected governor of Massachusetts. hide caption

toggle caption

Thirty-one years ago today, a Watergate-impaired Nixon picks Sen. Saxbe to be his attorney general. hide caption

toggle caption

Note: If you wish to be notified when a new "Political Junkie" is published, drop me a line at

Also, when sending in a question, please be sure to include your city and state.

Q: So who wins? – Bob Levine, St. Louis, Mo.

A: It is nothing short of remarkable that four years after the most contentious and disputed presidential election of the past century, we are headed for another nail-biter. One is tempted to say -- even though the evidence is anecdotal -- that we may see record voter turnout. But figuring out the winner is less predictable.

In this column four years ago (published by at the time), I picked Al Gore to win, with 279 electoral votes to George W. Bush's 259. (I was wrong on four states, mistakenly giving Gore Arkansas and Florida, and putting Oregon and Wisconsin in the Bush column.) This year, astonishingly, I see it even closer: John Kerry wins, with 274 electoral votes -- four more than needed -- to Bush's 264. But here's how close it truly is: should Bush win either Iowa or Minnesota (both currently seen as dead even, but I have them going Democratic), he wins re-election. And should he and not Kerry carry New Mexico, both candidates would be tied at 269 and the election goes to the House. Here's my final tally (with electoral votes in parentheses):

Bush (264): Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arizona (10), Arkansas (6), Colorado (9), Florida (27), Georgia (15), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (9), Mississippi (6), Missouri (11), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), Nevada (5), North Carolina (15), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (8), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (34), Utah (5), Virginia (13), West Virginia (5), Wisconsin (10), Wyoming (3).

Kerry (274): California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), D.C. (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), Iowa (7), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Michigan (17), Minnesota (10), New Hampshire (4), New Jersey (15), New Mexico (5), New York (31), Ohio (20), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (21), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington (11).

Q: NPR's excellent report by Andrea Seabrook last week on the Louisiana Senate race stated that Louisiana has never had a GOP senator. Louisiana has elected a Republican to the Senate, albeit a long time ago. William P. Kellogg served from 1868-72 and again from 1877-83. In between he was governor. -- Dr. Kevin Roberts, assistant professor, department of history, New Mexico State Univ., Las Cruces, N.M.

A: What you say about William Kellogg is correct, of course; perhaps we could have been clearer in the piece. We stated that voters never elected a Republican senator, which is true. We probably shouldn't have cut the words that followed: "since the direct election of senators was added to the Constitution in 1913." Two Louisiana Republicans did lead in the initial Senate primary, in which all candidates run on the same ballot, but none went on to win the runoff. Rep. Henson Moore (R) finished first in the 1986 election but lost the runoff to Rep. John Breaux (D). Similarly, Woody Jenkins (R) led Mary Landrieu (D) in the '96 election, but Landrieu recovered to win the subsequent runoff by fewer than 6,000 votes. In 2002 Landrieu finished first but was forced into another runoff, which she won.

I'm assuming Rep. David Vitter, a Republican, will lead Tuesday's election to succeed Breaux, who is retiring. But I'm not going to make an official prediction until we see who will join Vitter in the Dec. 4 runoff. If it's fellow Rep. Chris John (D), I think Democrats will ultimately hold the seat.

As for the other Senate races at stake, I'm calling a Republican net gain of one seat. Currently, it's 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and one Democrat-leaning independent. Democrats need a pickup of two seats if Bush is re-elected, one if Kerry wins. Here's a list of my picks for the other 33 seats (19 R, 14 D) that are up on Tuesday:

Republican Retention (12): Richard Shelby (Alabama), John McCain (Arizona), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Charles Grassley (Iowa), Sam Brownback (Kansas), Jim Bunning (Kentucky), Kit Bond (Missouri), Judd Gregg (New Hampshire), George Voinovich (Ohio), Tom Coburn (open Oklahoma), Arlen Specter (Pennsylvania), Robert Bennett (Utah).

Republican Losses (3): Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), open Colorado (Ben Nighthorse Campbell retiring), open Illinois (Peter Fitzgerald retiring).

Democratic Retention (14): Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Barbara Boxer (California), Chris Dodd (Connecticut), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii), Evan Bayh (Indiana), Barbara Mikulski (Maryland), Harry Reid (Nevada), Charles Schumer (New York), Byron Dorgan (North Dakota), Ron Wyden (Oregon), Tom Daschle (South Dakota), Pat Leahy (Vermont), Patty Murray (Washington), Russ Feingold (Wisconsin).

Democratic Losses (4): Open Florida (Bob Graham retiring), open Georgia (Zell Miller retiring), open North Carolina (John Edwards retiring), open South Carolina (Fritz Hollings retiring).

Q: George Clooney's dad, Nick, is running as a Democrat in Kentucky's 4th CD for the seat of retiring Democratic incumbent Ken Lucas. Clooney is a bit liberal in what appears to be a very conservative district. Who wins? – William Lawrence

A: From the accounts I've read, Clooney seems to be running a far better campaign than the GOP expected, frustrating Republican efforts to portray him as a Hollywood-style liberal. Still, I'm going with Geoff Davis, a Republican business consultant, to win the seat Lucas, a conservative Democrat, is vacating.

Currently, Republicans hold a 227-205 advantage in the House, with one independent and two GOP vacancies. I may be going out on a limb here, but I'm picking the GOP to gain four seats on Tuesday, leaving the House at 233-201-1. Here are my predictions in the House (incumbent in parentheses):

Republican Pickups (6): KY 04 (open, Ken Lucas retiring), SD At-Large (Stephanie Herseth), TX 01 (Max Sandlin), TX 02 (Nick Lampson), TX 19 (GOP incumbent Randy Neugebauer beats Democratic incumbent Charles Stenholm), TX 32 (GOP incumbent Pete Sessions beats Democratic incumbent Martin Frost).

Democratic Pickups (2): CO 03 (open, Scott McInnis retiring), GA 12 (Max Burns).

Q: Regarding your Oct. 27 column about the health of Chief Justice Rehnquist, what would happen if he (or any other Supreme Court justice, for that matter) were incapacitated right before a vote to resolve some urgent presidential election issue and the court ties 4-4 in a vote? -- Joan Peck, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Similarly, Randy Hjorth, Huntington Beach, Calif.

A: A 4-4 tie on the court would affirm a lower court's ruling on an issue. Thus, had a justice been incapacitated in 2000 during the Gore v. Bush decision, a 4-4 tie would have affirmed the Florida court's decision to recount the state.

Fun Fact Even Though My Yankees Are Gone: Every time the Boston Red Sox have won the World Series in a presidential year, the Democrats have won the White House (1912, 1916).

This Day in Campaign History: Sen. William Saxbe (R-OH), who had already announced he would not seek a second term in 1974, is named by President Nixon to be his new attorney general, succeeding Eliot Richardson. Richardson had resigned, rather than adhere to Nixon's order and fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox (Nov. 1, 1973).