America has spoken, President Bush (search) said Wednesday in accepting his re-election to the White House. The president vowed to fulfill the duty Americans have bestowed upon him for another four years and appealed to John Kerry's (search) supporters to help him bring the country together.
"Thanks for coming, we had a long night and a great night," Bush told a rousing crowd at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. "America has spoken and I'm humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens. With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans and I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as president."
Bush praised the United States for getting through "great tasks" such as pulling itself out of a recession and showing resolve and patience in a "new kind of war."
"Our nation has defended itself and served the freedom of all mankind. I'm proud to lead such an amazing country and I'm proud to lead it forward," Bush said.
"Because we have done the hard work, we are entering a season of hope," Bush added, pledging to continue economic progress, strengthen Social Security, make public schools "all they can be," uphold the country's "deepest values of family and faith" and help emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan.
"With the good allies at our side, we will fight this War on Terror with every resource in our national power so our children can live in freedom and in peace," the president said before turning his remarks toward those who voted for his opponent.
"Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans so today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent: to make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. 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 said he had a "really good phone call" with Kerry earlier in the day, when the Massachusetts senator called the president to concede the race for the White House.
"He was very gracious. Senator Kerry waged a spirited campaign and he and his supporters can be proud of their efforts," Bush said, with first lady Laura Bush and daughters Jenna and Barbara standing behind him.
Prior to taking the podium Vice President Dick Cheney said the campaign has been "a tremendously uplifting experience."
"We carried the president's message of optimism and hope across the continent, even to the Aloha State," Cheney said. "Thanks to you, President Bush won the greatest number of popular votes than any other presidential candidate in history.
"If ever a man met his moment in history, that man is George W. Bush."
Shortly before Bush's speech, an emotional Kerry told supporters Wednesday that he's sorry he didn't deliver the nation a new president but vowed that the foundation is being laid to reunite what many perceive as a deeply divided country.
Saying "I love you" and blowing kisses to the crowd showering him with rounds of applause and cheers, the Massachusetts senator told supporters at Boston's Faneuil Hall that he's "gratified" by their support, as well as that of his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, daughters Alexandra and Vanessa, Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, running mate John Edwards and others.
"I'm sorry that we got here a little bit late and a little bit short," Kerry said.
Early Wednesday, Nevada pushed Bush over the 270 Electoral College (search)-vote threshold he needed to win re-election. New Mexico followed, giving him a total of 279 votes.
"In America, it is vital that every vote count and every vote be counted but the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal process," Kerry said, referring to debates over potential legal battles that cropped up overnight in the battleground state of Ohio, which Kerry needed to win to grasp the presidency.
Democrats had insisted Kerry was still in contention for Ohio's decisive cache of 20 electoral votes. At issue were the more than 100,000 provisional ballots that still had to be counted.
But even some Ohio Democratic state leaders told FOX News they were not optimistic about their chances in Ohio; and the vote was not likely to be a repeat of Florida.
"I would not give up this fight if there was a chance we would prevail," the Massachusetts senator continued, but it's clear that even with all provisional ballots counted, Democrats couldn't win The Buckeye State, "and therefore, we cannot win this election."
Referring to his volunteers, Kerry said, "They were determined to open the doors of opportunity to all Americans ... they worked their hearts out and I wish — you don't know how much — that I could have brought this race home for you, for them."
Kerry said he had a "good conversation" with Bush over the phone earlier Wednesday as he conceded the race.
"We talked about the danger of division in our country and the desperate need to find unity in our country," Kerry said.
"In the days ahead, we must find common cause, we must join in a common effort, without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor. America is in need of unity and a larger measure of compassion," he continued, adding that he hopes Bush will pursue that unity in the coming years and vowing to do his part to bridge the partisan divide.
Before Kerry took the stage, Edwards vowed that the two men would carry on their message of bridging the "two Americas."
"Well it was a long night and a long morning and even thought the outcome won't change, I want you to know we will continue to fight for every vote because every vote matters in our America and we will honor each one of you who stood with us and who stood in line to change your country," the North Carolina senator said.
Looking more sullen than he ever did on the campaign trail, Edwards continued: "In this campaign, we worked hard and we hoped the results would be different ... You can be disappointed but you cannot walk away. This fight has only just begun. Together, we will carry on and we will be with you every step of the way.
"We will keep marching toward that one America and we're not going to stop until we get there."
A source close to the Bush campaign told FOX News the president's speech will be "conciliatory" in nature, "embracing of the fact that there's a lot of work to do." The aim will be to begin to try to bring the country together, the source said. To some extent, Bush will play off of Kerry's remarks. But the source said the thrust of the speech will be: "This is not a time of gloating; it's a time of governing. ...The president will speak as a statesman, not a politician."
The Concession Phone Call
In a conversation described to The Associated Press by one Republican and one Democratic source, Kerry's concession call to Bush lasted less than five minutes. "Congratulations, Mr. President," Kerry told Bush.
The Democratic source said Bush called Kerry a worthy, tough and honorable opponent. Kerry told Bush the country was too divided, the source said, and Bush agreed. "We really have to do something about it," Kerry said according to the Democratic official.
"I think you were an admirable and worthy opponent," Bush told Kerry, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters early Wednesday afternoon. "You ran a very tough campaign. You should be proud of the effort you put in."
The president said Kerry was very gracious. After the call, Bush hugged his staff. Senior adviser Karen Hughes and White House Chief of Staff Andy Card then congratulated Vice President Dick Cheney and first lady Laura Bush. McClellan said the Republican incumbent was in good spirits all night and the GOP camp knew around mid- to late-day Tuesday that the exit polls showing Kerry leading the race were way off.
News of the phone call came at 11:10 a.m. EST Wednesday. Earlier in the morning, the Bush campaign declared victory, despite claims by Kerry's campaign that the fight is not yet over in Ohio.
"I want to thank all of you for staying up so late with us, and good morning," Card told haggard supporters at the Ronald Reagan Building, speaking at 5:45 a.m. EST. "We are convinced that President Bush has won re-election with at least 286 Electoral College votes."
Although Iowa, Nevada and New Mexico had not yet then made their results officials, Card said the GOP camp was counting those states in its column. Card also declared victory in Ohio, despite claims by Kerry's campaign that the fight was not yet over in The Buckeye State.
"This all adds up to a convincing victory," Card said. "President Bush decided to give Senator Kerry the respect of more time to reflect on the results of this election."
Election Day was one of tremendous mood swings for the Kerry camp. Thousands of supporters gathered in Copley Square in Boston, some singing and dancing in the rain to entertainers like Sheryl Crow. The Kerry camp went into the night thinking they would gain a victory from new registrants and a large voter turnout, and the crowd was eager to hear their candidate speak to them — win or lose.
Instead, when Bush began to show signs of winning and Ohio began to buck the trends going toward Kerry, Edwards took the stage and gave the crowd a brief pep talk shortly before 3 a.m. Wednesday
Introduced as the "next vice president of the United States," the North Carolina senator told Democratic supporters gathered for a victory rally to go home.
"It's been a long night but we've waited four years for this victory — we can wait one more night," Edwards said. "John and I are so proud of all of you who are here with us and all of you throughout the country who have stood with us through this campaign ... [We] promised every vote would count and every vote would be counted. Tonight, we are keeping our word and we will fight for every vote. You deserve no less. Thank you."
And the Pundits Speak
Democratic strategist Elaine Kamarck said the idea of not changing horses in midstream helped Bush win.
"I think it probably was the desire of people in uncertain times to stick to the person they know best — that is always an incumbent advantage," she said. "There's a lot of insecurity about the world in which we live today … inertia does win, particularly when people aren't really sure what the world's going to look like."
Tom Edsall, political reporter for The Washington Post, said "a lot of us were surprised" at the White House result, especially after early exit polls showed Kerry with a strong lead, but those leads "steadily collapsed and Bush emerged the winner, so it sort of was a strange day."
"It looks that Bush is coming in with a lot stronger mandate than most people had thought," Edsall said. "I think if anything, he's going to feel more confident pressing and continuing the conservative agenda that he promoted during his four years."
"Actually, I didn't think there was anybody in the Kerry campaign who didn't think they were going to win," added FOX News political contributor Eleanor Clift. Lanny Davis, former White House counsel to President Clinton, said Bush's win in Florida was key.
"I think the Republican Party and Governor Jeb Bush's party in Florida, in particular, did a great job of turning their votes out and I think the Democratic Party has a huge cultural divide that is very difficult to get through in vast parts of this country," Davis said.
Davis said this year's election results are a huge reinforcement of the "two nations" idea that emerged from the divisive 2000 presidential election between Bush and Al Gore. Bridging that gap and bringing the country together, Davis said, "is going to be one of the most important items on his agenda."
Republican strategist Ed Rogers said Bush's win is "a clear affirmation of the person that he is and the presidency that he is administrating — clear by any standard, a big vote of confidence and what he's doing."
Democratic strategist Rich Masters said that during Bush's second term, the president must do better at reaching out to moderate and conservative Democrats if he wants to bring the nation back together. On 2000, he ran on the premise that he wanted to be a uniter, not a divider yet consensus has it that the nation is more divided now than it was four years ago, he said.
"Ultimately, at the end of the day, [Bush] decide to knit together a Republican majority in a lot of these things and I think he's got a lot to do, reaching out to moderate and independent voters," Masters said. "The country is divided, there's going to be some soul searching in determining where we go from here."
But Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said the Election Day results show the country is not as divided as suspected.
"I think we saw obviously tonight a decisive win in the popular vote. I suspect that when everybody wakes up tomorrow, the Republicans will have 55 seats in the United States Senate as a result of the president's strong push across the country, and we will gain seats in the House of Representatives as well. So, I'm not sure the country is as closely divided as is made out to be," Gillespie said around 3:30 a.m. EST. "It looks to me a very decisive win today."
At the Polls
Polls closed Tuesday night in all 50 states and the nation's capital in a race that was called one of the most hotly contested in American history.
Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin were called on Wednesday, and by evening Iowa was still too close.
Bush won 30 states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming, FOX News projects.
Click here for a roundup of major Senate races.
Click here for a roundup of major House races.
Click here for a roundup of governors' races and state ballot initiatives.
Kerry won 19 states and the capital: California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, FOX News projects.
So far, New Hampshire is the only state to switch parties from the 2000 election outcome.
Allegations of voter suppression abounded in The Buckeye State. Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said early Wednesday morning that the challenger's camp was not buying the projected tally in the crucial battleground state.
"The vote count in Ohio has not been completed. There are more than 250,000 remaining votes to be counted. We believe when they are, John Kerry will win Ohio," a statement read.
But one Bush-Cheney strategist said Kerry had no chance of pulling a win out of Ohio.
"Impossible ... he can't make up for his margin of defeat. This is a desperate ploy," he said.
Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell told FOX News early Wednesday morning that about 5.8 million to 5.9 million people voted this year - about 1 million more than in 2000. He projected about a 72 percent voter turnout this year, as compared to 63 percent in 2000.
"This is a real spike," he said. "We're going to count every vote that was cast today and we're going to do it in a bipartisan system … that represents the true will of the people."
FOX News' Jim Angle, Steve Brown, Carl Cameron, Mike Emanuel, Wendell Goler, James Rosen and Kelly Wright contributed to this report.