Thursday, November 4, 2004
Bush prevails at polls
Ohio finally pushes him over the top
By Bill Nichols
and Peter Eisler
WASHINGTON - President Bush formally won a second term in office Wednesday and quickly promised to unite the country after a taut and chaotic contest that wasn't decided until the pivotal state of Ohio went to Bush in the late morning after Election Day.
President Bush and first lady Laura Bush arrive at a victory celebration Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington.
The Associated Press
Sen. John Kerry embraces his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, after delivering his concession speech Wednesday afternoon in Boston.
The Associated Press/GERALD HERBERT
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, just hours after a pre-dawn vow by his campaign to wait until all votes in Ohio were counted, acknowledged in Boston that his grueling bid for the White House would end in defeat and opted to forgo a lengthy legal challenge
"I wish, you don't know how much, that I could have brought this race home," Kerry told cheering and crying supporters.
After months of predictions of a too-close-to-call contest, Bush won nationwide balloting 51 percent to 48 percent, making him the 15th president elected to a second term and the first to win both a majority of the popular vote and the electoral college since his father in 1988. Overall Republican control in Washington also grew, as the GOP extended its majorities in the House and Senate.
The results leave Bush with both the public mandate and congressional support he needs to sustain his policies in Iraq and the war on terror. His re-election, which averts the fate his father suffered at the hands of Bill Clinton in 1992, also gives him a stronger base to pursue a conservative domestic agenda that includes making permanent the $1.9 trillion in tax cuts won in his first term.
"We had a long night - and a great night," a smiling Bush told cheering followers in Washington Wednesday afternoon. "We have one country, one Constitution and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America."
Bush also reached out to Kerry supporters.
"To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support," he said. "And I will work to earn it."
Kerry called Bush to concede about 11 a.m. Aides said Bush told Kerry that he was "an admirable, worthy opponent."
In his concession, Kerry also said that he'd had a "good conversation" with Bush about the need for national unity.
"We talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need, for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together. Today I hope that we can begin the healing," said Kerry, who will remain in the Senate.
Kerry's concession came despite his supporters' pleas to wait until an estimated 150,000 outstanding ballots were counted in Ohio. But Kerry said those votes would not be enough to win. The state's 20 electoral votes assured Bush of the 270 needed for victory.
Bush strengthened his showing from the disputed 2000 election, in which he lost the popular vote to Vice President Al Gore but won the electoral count 36 days later after the Supreme Court stopped a recount in Florida.
Bush's coattails might have been the difference this year in boosting GOP congressional candidates.
The election left Republicans with their strongest hold on the federal government since the GOP was the majority party in the 1920s.
Besides holding the White House, Republicans gained four Senate seats, giving them 55 of the 100, and an expanded majority in the House.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., lost a contentious race, making him the first Senate leader voted from office in 50 years.
While they remained short of the 60 Senate votes needed to limit force votes in the Senate, independent analyst Charles Cook said, "You have a lot more say about what goes on in the Senate with 55 than you did at 51."
In the House, preliminary returns had Republicans picking up at least three seats, adding to its 227-205 majority. It's the first time the GOP has held the House for 12 straight years since January 1933.
Bush was greeted at his victory celebration at the Reagan Center by chants of "four more years" from backers, including party leaders who waited up Tuesday night in hopes of a victory celebration.
Vice President Dick Cheney, introducing Bush, called the results a mandate for the agenda presented during the campaign.
At home, Bush said, that would include efforts to "reform our outdated tax code," to "strengthen the Social Security for the next generation" with private investment accounts, "uphold our deepest values of family and faith." He also pledged to "help the emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan" so that "our servicemen and women will come home with the honor they have earned.
"We will fight this war on terror with every resource of our national power so our children can live in freedom and in peace," Bush said.
The GOP exultation followed an up-and-down Election Day, in which Republicans fretted over early exit-poll numbers showing a broad Kerry lead. But as returns piled up, it was clear that Bush had won the popular vote nationally and - once he captured pivotal Florida and held all but one of his other states from 2000 - would need only Ohio to win the Electoral College.
Voter turnout hit record highs nationally, with 120 million people casting ballots, almost 60 percent of those eligible, according to Curtis Gans of the nonpartisan Committee for the Study for the American Electorate. With almost all precincts counted nationally, Bush led Kerry by 3.5 million votes. The Bush-Cheney tally was higher than any previous presidential ticket.
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