Skip to comments.After Kerry Concedes, Bush Cites 'A Duty to Serve All Americans'
Posted on 11/04/2004 6:24:58 AM PST by OESY
George W. Bush declared victory yesterday in the race for president after a decisive national election that bolstered Republican strength in Congress and led the White House to proclaim that Mr. Bush had won a mandate from the American public for a second term.
Mr. Bush beamed as he stood with Vice President Dick Cheney at a rally in Washington four hours after accepting a concession call at the White House from Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who waged a fierce challenge to unseat him.
"We had a long night - and a great night,'' Mr. Bush said. "The voters turned out in record numbers and delivered an historic victory."
"America has spoken, and I'm humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens," he said. "With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans, and I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president."
In calling the president, Mr. Kerry abandoned a threat to contest the election result in Ohio in deference to a decisive popular vote victory by a man who four years ago won the presidency with less than 50 percent of the popular vote.
"We cannot win this election," Mr. Kerry said somberly to supporters at Faneuil Hall in Boston.
The victory by Mr. Bush amounted to a striking turn in fortunes for the nation's 43rd president, who had at times this year seemed destined to repeat his father's fate of losing a second term because of a weak economy. Instead, he won about 8.7 million more popular votes than he did in 2000 and positioned himself and his party to push through a conservative agenda in Washington over the next four years.
Mr. Bush won 274 electoral votes, 3 more than in 2000, with Iowa (7 votes) and New Mexico (5 votes) not yet officially in his column. Mr. Kerry had 252 votes. Mr. Bush became the first incumbent Republican president since Calvin Coolidge to win a presidential race while gaining seats in the House and in the Senate. The Republicans picked up at least two seats in the House and four in the Senate. While not enough to provide Mr. Bush a veto-proof Congress, the party's surge did result in the defeat of Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the minority leader and one of the most familiar Democratic faces in Washington.
Republican leaders were promising to renew efforts to pass bills that Democrats had blocked, like one permitting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and another placing caps on awards in liability lawsuits.
Mr. Bush spoke only in the broad terms of what he might do in a second term. But he strongly signaled that he was looking to stabilize the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq to allow American soldiers to return home.
"We will help the emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan so they can grow in strength and defend their freedom, and then our servicemen and women will come home with the honor they have earned," he said.
Mr. Bush's victory appeared to clear the way for a reshuffling of his cabinet, with John Ashcroft, the attorney general, and Tom Ridge, the homeland security secretary, likely to leave for personal reasons, according to administration officials.
Mr. Cheney, in introducing the president at the rally at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center less than a half-mile from the White House, left little doubt about how this White House saw the election, and what it intended to do with it. He said the president had run "forthrightly on a clear agenda for this nation's future, and the nation responded by giving him a mandate."
Mr. Bush's victory was powered in no small part by a huge turnout among evangelical Christians, who may seek a bigger voice in critical White House decisions over the next four years - in particular, Supreme Court nominations that are likely to occupy parts of Mr. Bush's second term.
Mr. Bush, as he did when he won four years ago, made a point in his victory speech of reaching out to Democrats, saying he wanted to unify a country that had been divided not only by the contest with Mr. Kerry, but also by the circumstances of Mr. Bush's victory four years ago.
"I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent," he said. "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."
Mr. Kerry struck a similar tone in his concession speech in Boston - which at 16 minutes lasted 6 minutes longer than Mr. Bush's - though it reprised, if indirectly, some of the criticisms he made of Mr. Bush during the campaign.
"America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion," Mr. Kerry said. "I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years. I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide.
"I know this is a difficult time for my supporters, but I ask you - all of you - to join me in doing this," said Mr. Kerry, whose voice cracked at times in an uncharacteristic display of public emotion.
That said, by any measure, the Bush victory rocked the political landscape in Washington. Aides to both parties said they were doubtful - given the history of the past four years - that the capital was headed for a period of political calm, no matter what the president and Mr. Kerry said in the aftermath of their bitter competition.
"I don't think a 51-49 election is any mandate," Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman, said in an interview. "George Bush won, and I congratulate him on that. They ran a very effective campaign and he won. They need to be very careful that they now need to govern from the middle in a bipartisan way. This country as we saw in the election is very evenly split."
For much of Tuesday and into yesterday, it seemed as if the election of 2004 was turning into a reprise of the election of 2000, with a series of tight races and some confusion in counting combining to create a night of tumult and uncertainty. At 2:30 yesterday morning, Mr. Kerry's running mate, Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, went to the stage in Boston where Mr. Kerry had hoped to declare victory to say that the Kerry campaign would not concede until all the outstanding votes in Ohio were counted.
Mr. Bush nearly appeared at 4 a.m. yesterday to declare victory in the face of the Kerry campaign threat.
But the situation in Ohio was nowhere near as disputed as it was in Florida four years ago, and Mr. Bush's advisers decided instead to hold off in the hopes that Mr. Kerry would, upon waking, decide the cause was hopeless and concede.
The 2004 election turned out to be different in another way as well. For all the fears of Democrats this year, Ralph Nader drew so few votes that he had no impact on the outcome in any state.
If Republicans were ecstatic at having won a clean victory without the baggage of 2000, Democrats were bereft at what several described as a rout, and there were immediate signs that the party was facing a dark period of intramural battles.
Several Democrats questioned Mr. Kerry's decision to concede without pressing for a full count of the votes in Ohio, warning that it would discourage first-time voters, particularly members of minorities, in future elections. "I understand the need to put it behind him, given the math," said Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore's 2000 campaign. "But he has an obligation to allow all these votes to be counted."
Tellingly, associates of Mr. Edwards made a point of informing reporters that Mr. Edwards had urged Mr. Kerry not to give up in Ohio so soon, in what some Democrats described as probably the opening shot of - yes - the 2008 campaign. Mr. Edwards is likely to seek his party's nomination and thus is eager not to do anything in the final days of this campaign that could haunt him in 2008.
"He conveyed his point of view and Kerry made his own decision," one Edwards adviser said, adding that Mr. Edwards "was disappointed but made peace with the result."
Democrats resigned themselves to having even less influence in the Senate and the House. In the Senate, Harry Reid of Nevada was moving to take over the minority leadership post being vacated by Mr. Daschle. With the four-seat gain, Republicans will have 55 senators, still 5 short of holding a filibuster-proof margin. But Republicans said they hoped that Democrats would see Mr. Daschle's defeat as a cautionary lesson that would prevent them from trying to use legislative techniques to entangle Republican initiatives.
Mr. McAuliffe and other Democrats tried to put the best face on the defeat, saying that Mr. Kerry was facing a difficult task in trying to unseat a sitting president during wartime. He argued that Mr. Bush was helped by the emergence last weekend of a videotape featuring Osama bin Laden addressing Americans, which reminded voters of the issue - fear of terrorism - that had always been central to Mr. Bush's campaign.
"You've got to remember that he went in with a tough deck of cards," Mr. McAuliffe said of Mr. Kerry.
Still, Democrats seemed as startled as Republicans were delighted by the unlikelihood of the victory. Mr. Bush prevailed despite the legacy of one of the most disputed elections in the nation's history. He overcame polls showing that voters disapproved of his job performance and of the direction in which the country was heading, two measures that typically augur defeat for an incumbent.
Mr. Bush not only won Florida, but he won it by a comfortable margin. He also won the other of the two most contested states, Ohio. He won both states in 2000. Mr. Kerry grabbed New Hampshire from the Republican column, while Mr. Bush yanked New Mexico away from the Democrats.
Mr. Bush was ahead in another state Mr. Gore barely won last time - Iowa - though officials there were recounting the vote.
Mr. Kerry, in his appearance in Boston, sought to erase any doubt about the vote in Ohio, and made clear that he did not want a protracted repeat of the 2000 battle that tore the country apart. "In America, it is vital that every vote count and every vote be counted,'' he said. "But the outcome should be decided by voters - not a protracted legal process."
As his audience listened in near-silence, Mr. Kerry, who had built a campaign around the Bruce Springsteen song "No Surrender" and promised to fight Republicans in a way Democrats never had before, said he had no reservations about abandoning this one, and returning to his post in the United States Senate.
"I would not give up this fight if there was a chance that we would prevail,'' he said.
President Bush delivered his victory speech Wednesday in Washington. Behind him on stage at the Ronald Reagan Building were his wife and daughters, right, and Vice President Dick Cheney and his family.
Boy, that must have hurt. HEHEHE, it is a great week to be a New Yorker.
Not a very conciliatory concession speech.
About what one would expect from a Democrat, and this man in particular.
I agree with this goal, but the Times is notorious for using different headlines for their online edition versus their print edition. I went with the online version, though I'll try to include both in the future for better referencing, though the difference can sometimes difficult to spot.
Good idea - thanks..
All his best thinking ended up with a huge success for Bush, the House and the Senate - I hope he keeps giving it his best shot...