Bush easily carried Alabama, a state the GOP has dominated in presidential polling since 1976. In the absence of a competitive third-party candidate, the Texas governor took an even larger share of the state, 56 percent of the vote, than Republican nominees in the past two presidential elections. In the only House race in which the incumbent faced a serious challenge, two-term Rep. Robert Aderholt (R) easily defeated Martha Folsom (D), heir to one of the most famous names in Alabama politics.
President Clinton's home state helped keep Bush's hopes alive by giving the Texas governor 50 percent of the vote, which outstripped the 46 percent won by Gore. Other candidates split the rest. But Democrats picked up a House seat as state Sen. Mike Ross (D), a graduate of Hope High School in Clinton's hometown, edged out incumbent Rep. Jay Dickey (R), a conservative four-term representative who backed the impeachment of the president. Ross, 39, opposes gun control but ran on other Democratic themes such as preserving Social Security and creating a Medicare prescription drug benefit. He rose to prominence by chairing hearings on the abuse of delinquent children in state custody; the hearings led to reforms of the division of youth services.
The presidential cliffhanger dominated the news from the nation's fourth-most populous state, but there were several other hotly contested races.
The Democrats seized the chance to replace retiring Sen. Connie Mack (R). Insurance commissioner and former representative Bill Nelson (D) rode his reputation as a consumer advocate and political moderate to an easy victory over 10-term Rep. Bill McCollum, who gained national fame as one of the House "managers" in Clinton's Senate impeachment trial. Nelson took a sizable share of Bush voters, about a quarter of voters who identified themselves as conservatives and an overwhelming majority of female voters in assembling his 51 percent-to-46 percent victory.
The Republicans held on to two House seats vacated by Reps. Charles T. Canady (R) and Tillie Fowler (R), who fulfilled their voluntary six-year term limit pledges.
Adam Putnam (R), 26, won Canady's seat and will become the youngest member of the new Congress. He thumped Michael D. Stedem, 50, a Ford auto dealer who was making his first bid for political office. Putnam, who despite his youth is chairman of the agriculture committee in the state legislature, won 57 percent of the vote in his rural central Florida district. Putnam has protected sugar growers, tobacco farmers and citrus groves and has supported tougher criminal sentencing laws. The Florida League of Conservation Voters ranked him last among 160 state legislators on environmental issues.
Former state senator Ander Crenshaw (R) easily captured Fowler's district. Crenshaw, who has been out of office since 1994, did not set a limit on the length of his service. He is seeking a spot on the House Armed Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees, useful assignments in his northeast Florida district, which is home to several military bases.
Florida's tightest race tilted toward GOP incumbent Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr., who led state Rep. Elaine Bloom (D) by just 637 votes in a contest in which each side spent more than $2 million. The district includes the three counties--Palm Beach, Broward and Dade--that are at the heart of the disputed presidential election results. In accordance with Florida law, county officials were recounting ballots in the congressional race, too, focusing on absentee ballots, misleading or erroneous ballot cards and miscounting, according to a Bloom campaign spokesman. Shaw, who has served 10 terms, appeared to have won even though Clinton and celebrities such as director Rob Reiner stumped for Bloom. The Democratic National Committee had poured $1.6 million into Bloom's campaign; Bloom's campaign spent about $2.7 million independently.
In the Jacksonville area, incumbent Rep. Corrine Brown (D), cited by the House ethics committee for the "appearance of impropriety" in a financial scandal, easily fended off a challenge by retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Carroll (R), who was trying to become the first African American Republican woman elected to Congress.
The GOP barely held on to McCollum's district in the Orlando area. Ric Keller (R), a lawyer in his first political campaign, won 51 percent to 49 percent over Linda Chapin, who has been elected three times to countywide office, including a stint as Orange County chairman. Keller backed measures to protect the Everglades from polluters and supported tax cuts and vouchers for education. He benefited from negative campaign ads run by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
After see-sawing narrowly in the past two presidential elections, Georgia went solidly for Bush, who carried the state with 55 percent of the vote. Bush won a clear majority of the male vote in Georgia and split the female vote evenly with Gore, according to exit polls. In addition, Bush took a clear majority of independent voters and a large chunk of those who identified themselves as moderates. As in the rest of the South, blacks voted for Gore overwhelmingly, favoring him by about 90 percent.
Sen. Zell Miller (D), who was appointed to the Senate in July after the death of Paul Coverdell (R), won a special election for the four remaining years of Coverdell's term. Miller ended eight years as governor in 1999 with high popularity ratings. His nearest competitor in a field of seven candidates was Mack Mattingly (R), who held the seat in the 1980s.
All the incumbents won their House seats by comfortable margins. Even sports broadcast executive Roger Kahn (D), who spent more than $2 million of his own money, fell short in his effort to oust Rep. Robert L. Barr Jr. (R), a fierce proponent of Clinton's impeachment.
The Clinton-Gore ticket carried the Bluegrass State twice by narrow margins, but Bush romped by one of the widest margins in any recent presidential race--more than 230,000 votes. Gore's anti-smoking stands and his strong positions on environmental issues cost him greatly among the many Kentucky voters who make their livings from tobacco and coal.
Democrats mounted serious challenges against several Republican incumbents but failed to win any of the races. In the closest of those contests, Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R) won with 53 percent of the vote after a campaign in which gun control was a major issue. Fletcher enjoyed strong support from the NRA.
Bush topped his father's share of the vote in Louisiana by a full 10 percentage points, carrying the state by a wide margin. Clinton won the Bayou State twice, but Gore was never competitive there. None of the seven incumbents--two Democrats and five Republicans--in Louisiana's congressional delegation faced a competitive challenge.
Republican candidates have carried Mississippi by wide margins for 20 years and Bush easily replicated the feat, taking 57 percent of the vote. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R) did even better with 66 percent. The GOP's only disappointment in the state was its failure to unseat freshman Rep. Ronnie Shows (D). The party lent strong support to a challenge by Dunn Lampton (R), a popular district attorney, but Shows won.
South Carolina (8)
Bush easily won the Palmetto State, which has gone for a Democrat only once, in 1976, since Richard M. Nixon brought it into the Republican column in 1968. State Rep. Henry Brown (R) won nearly 60 percent of the vote in a solidly Republican House seat left open by the retirement of Rep. Mark Sanford (R), who had set his own term limit. Brown, 64, an investor and retired vice president of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Inc., has served in the state legislature since 1985. He emerged from a six-way Republican primary by stressing tax cuts and smaller government. His opponent, Andrew C. Brack, who advocated a balance between growth and quality of life in coastal South Carolina, is a former journalist and spokesman for Sen. Ernest F. Hollings (D-S.C.).
When Bush started turning up regularly to campaign in Tennessee this fall, it appeared to some that he was just teasing his opponent, but Gore, in fact, lost his home state and lost it badly. Bush won 51 percent to Gore's 47 percent, thus making Gore the first presidential nominee to lose his home state since then-Sen. George McGovern failed to carry South Dakota in 1972. By tradition, Tennessee has been divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans. The Clinton-Gore team carried the state twice, but the GOP has made substantial gains in recent years and holds the governor's mansion and both Senate seats. Late in the campaign, Gore tried to rally traditional Democratic constituencies, especially African Americans, but it was not enough. Adding to the bitterness of the defeat: If Gore had carried Tennessee, he would not have needed to win Florida to capture the White House.
Sen. Bill Frist (R) and all the incumbent House members--four Democrats and five Republicans--won reelection easily.
Contributors to the state-by-state reports and to the profiles of new governors, senators and members of the House included staff writers David Brown, Kenneth J. Cooper, Michael A. Fletcher, Amy Goldstein, Anne Hull, Marc Kaufman, John Lancaster, Charles Lane, George Lardner Jr., Vernon Loeb, John Mintz, Dan Morgan, Steven Mufson, Susan Okie, Hanna Rosin, Roberto Suro and Rick Weiss. Researchers Lynn Davis and Madonna Lebling also contributed.