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Political Notebook

Florida presidential race too close to call

An employee tallied absentee ballot reports in Doral, Fla., on Thursday.

alan diaz/associated press

An employee tallied absentee ballot reports in Doral, Fla., on Thursday.

NEW YORK — The presidential race in Florida remains too close to call, as election officials across the state continue to verify results from election night. President Obama currently leads in the count by 50,767 votes, or 0.61 percent of the total counted.

State law mandates an automatic machine recount of all ballots if the final margin between the top two candidates is less than 0.5 percent of total votes cast. County election officials have until noon Saturday to submit the canvass of their unofficial results to the secretary of state, who would order the recount if required, unless the losing candidate asked in writing that it not be conducted.

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Obama already has been declared the overall winner of the presidential election, based on results in the rest of the country. With Florida’s 29 electoral votes still undecided, Obama has won 303 electoral votes to 206 for Republican Mitt Romney.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Hutchinson rebukes Republicans on handling of women’s issues

Retiring Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, is offering some advice to her party on her way out the door: “Stop trying to act like the woman is a throw-away.”

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Appearing on CNN on Thursday, Hutchison joined the second-guessing after GOP losses in the presidential race and in other winnable contests, including Senate races in Missouri and Indiana.

Hutchison said Republicans have failed to approach abortion, contraception, and other social issues with a proper level of sensitivity.

“We had Republican candidates who got very high-profile and said some very stupid things,” Hutchison said. “I think that really tainted the party.”

The GOP Senate candidate in Missouri, Representative Todd Akin, said in a local television interview in August that he “understand[s] from doctors” that rape-induced pregnancies are “really rare.”

“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down,” he added.

In the Indiana Senate race, Tea Party-backed Richard Mourdock said that “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said that he supports abortion as an option for rape victims, and he called for Akin to drop out.

But Romney maintained his endorsement of Mourdock, for whom he had appeared in a television ad, and he was linked to Akin by Democrats who noted that Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, had joined Akin in cosponsoring a 2011 bill that would have permitted federal funding for abortions only in cases of “forcible” rape.

Hutchison said her party should focus more on economic and fiscal issues, where she said she believes Republicans have an advantage over Democrats.

“People have personal beliefs, and what we need to do is fashion a party around the economics and the long-term viability of the economy of our country,” Hutchison said.

CALLUM BORCHERS

Wash. voters OK law that allows gay marriage

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Voters in Washington state have approved gay marriage, joining Maine and Maryland as the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote.

Returns released since election night show Referendum 74 maintaining its lead. Opponents conceded the race Thursday, a day after supporters declared victory.

The measure asked people to approve or reject a state law legalizing same-sex marriage that legislators passed earlier this year. That law was signed by Governor Chris Gregoire but was on hold pending the election’s outcome.

Washington is one of four states where voters were asked about the issue this election cycle. Maryland and Maine residents approved gay marriage Tuesday night, while Minnesota voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.

Six other states — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont — and the District of Columbia already allow gay marriage. But Maryland, Maine, and Washington are the first to enact it by public vote. The other states’ laws were enacted either by lawmakers or court rulings.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

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