There he is, the "newly elected next governor of Alabama" in all his post-election glory, chatting up the Alabama University board of trustees in Tuscaloosa.

But wait a second. Right at that very moment, another guy is 200 miles away, touring the tornado-shaken town of Abbeville and calling himself the newly elected next governor of Alabama.

One of them must be wrong.

Yet, ever since the closest election in Alabama gubernatorial history on Tuesday, the incumbent, Democrat Don Siegelman, and the challenger, Republican Bob Riley, each has been acting like the winner.

They've given victory speeches to crowds of cheering supporters. They've posted celebratory messages on their Web sites, complete with their own wholly different versions of the final vote tally. They've taken turns calling on each other to concede.

Riley has even cranked up a transition team.

"It's been very confusing, to say the least," said state Rep. John Knight (D), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the Alabama House of Representatives.

It's sure to get more confusing. Siegelman called for a statewide recount this evening, a largely symbolic gesture since Alabama law allows any registered voter to trigger a recount in individual counties as long as they put up a bond to pay for it.

"I believe I'm the winner of that election," Siegelman announced as he stood beneath an ornate chandelier in the state Capitol, a building he is fighting not to vacate. "Let's make sure that each vote that was cast is counted and counted fairly."

Siegelman's plea tracks back to the tangled moments just before midnight Tuesday at a courthouse in Baldwin County, a heavily Republican suburban area across the Tensaw River from Mobile. At least three sets of vote totals came out of that courthouse late Tuesday and early Wednesday.

The first seemed purely inconceivable to the campaign representatives watching the polls, because it showed a little-known Libertarian candidate, John Sophocleus, capturing thousands of votes. The election officials fiddled with their computers and came up with another set of figures, revealing pages full of numbers that made Siegelman's backers smile.

The sheets showed Siegelman with 19,000 votes, not enough to win the county, but just enough to give him a 3,100-vote margin of victory. William Pfeifer, chairman of the Baldwin County Democratic Party, went home thinking his man was the winner.

Soon the rest of the state thought Siegelman was the winner, too. Baldwin County election officials handed an uncertified copy of the results to a reporter from the Associated Press, which a few hours later called the election a victory for Siegelman. Those at the Siegelman election night party went wild, and the governor gave his victory speech.

Not much later, things went haywire. A new set of vote totals appeared on the Baldwin County election Web site. These new figures showed Siegelman with 6,200 fewer votes and, more important, gave Riley a 3,100-vote lead in the statewide race out of 1.3 million votes cast.

It was Riley's turn to give a victory speech in Talladega, where the Republican faithful had gathered for an election night fete at the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame. His wife, Patsy, declared "Finally, good wins over evil," according to the Huntsville Times.

Back in politics-obsessed Montgomery, the Democrats were beside themselves. They were already worried to begin with because so much attention was being focused on Baldwin County, one of the first areas of the state to turn Republican years ago when the old Southern Democrats began changing their party affiliation.

"It appears that strange shenanigans went on in Baldwin County," Paul Hubbert, head of the state teachers union, said today. "The situation certainly has a smell to it."

Everything got more hectic on Wednesday morning when a squad of Democratic lawyers showed up at the Baldwin County courthouse to confront Adrian Johns, an elected Republican probate judge whose job duties include overseeing elections.

"Instead of getting an explanation, we got this big press conference [on the courthouse steps]," Pfeifer said. "We tried to get them to postpone that little scene on the steps. They were just insistent; they were going to go out there and certify those totals before there was any chance to look into this."

Johns stood firm, defending his decision. He blamed the differing vote totals on a computer glitch that had been corrected by his staff.

There was also talk of thunderstorms possibly causing power surges that may have affected the optical scanning machines used in Baldwin, a voting system lauded as state-of-the-art by a parade of experts.

Johns is known for his mild manner, but suddenly he found himself being compared by some to Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state who certified the votes that gave George W. Bush his margin of victory in 2000. For that matter, the mess was drawing comparisons to the Florida presidential quagmire.

Riley and his staff later accused Siegelman of using "funny math." Most important, they pointed out that it would be impossible for Siegelman to have collected 19,000 votes in Baldwin because that would have pushed the total votes tallied beyond the number of people who had signed in to vote.

Riley and his staff also disseminated an account of the Baldwin County debacle that differed slightly from the account given by Democrats. For one, they said, the lower Siegelman vote total was just about the same as informal newspaper tallies compiled hours before the Associated Press called the race.

"The votes we got are solid," Riley spokesman David Azbell said today. "These aren't butterfly ballots we're dealing with in Baldwin County. . . . this case is closed."

But, try as the Republicans might, no one here believes they will be able to close this case in a hurry. There are recounts to come, not to mention the possibility that Siegelman or his backers could later ask the legislature or, perhaps, the courts, to decide the election.

Siegelman, ultimately, will have to decide how far to push it. He is not on unfamiliar ground. During the heat of that infamous presidential election in 2000, he got a call from an old friend who was looking for some company on a Christmas shopping trip -- a fellow Democrat named Al Gore.

Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, in left photo, has called on his Republican opponent, Rep. Bob Riley, to concede defeat in the gubernatorial race. Riley, right, has also proclaimed victory and sought a concession from Siegelman.