Nov. 3, 2004 — -- Echoing the vow of his defeated opponent, a triumphant President Bush promised today to unite a divided nation after becoming the first Republican to be re-elected to the White House since Ronald Reagan.
"America has spoken, and I'm humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens," Bush told cheering supporters at the Reagan Center in Washington.
Bush's victory speech came one hour after Democratic Sen. John Kerry publicly conceded the presidential election. The Massachusetts senator called for bipartisan unity when he addressed supporters in Boston this afternoon, pledging to work with Bush to the heal nation's division over many issues, which was reflected in their contentious, often ugly campaign battle.
With Vice President Dick Cheney, first lady Laura Bush and other family members at his side, Bush vowed to win the trust of Kerry's supporters. He said the nation must come together, especially with the ongoing war on terrorism and U.S. troops fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work for it," Bush said. "A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to others. We have one nation, one constitution that binds. When we come together, work together, there's no limit to what we can do as a nation."
Bush promised to continue to work toward improving the economy and continue to protect the nation by fighting a global war on terror.
"Our nation has defended freedom and I'm proud to lead a nation and lead it forward," he said.
Cheney told supporters the victory -- and the general success of Republicans on Election Day -- is a popular mandate for the president's policies.
"We spread a tremendous message of hope and optimism to the entire nation and continent," said Cheney. "The result brought nationwide victory."
In his concession speech, Kerry urged his own supporters to unite as a nation and cross party lines to bridge the differences.
"Earlier today, I spoke with President Bush and I offered him and Laura congratulations," a slightly hoarse Kerry told supporters. "We had a good conversation, and we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need -- the desperate need -- for finding common ground in America. Today I hope we can begin the healing."
The Democrat admitted defeat after a victory in the battleground state of Ohio appeared hopelessly out of reach. Kerry needed Ohio's 20 electoral votes to remain competitive.
"In America, it is vital that every vote count and be counted," Kerry said. "But an election should be decided by voters, not by a protracted legal fight. … It is now clear that even if we tally all the provisional ballots, there won't be enough outstanding votes for us to win Ohio. We came to the conclusion that we cannot win this election."
His running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, urged their supporters not to be too disheartened by the loss and to continue fighting for their causes.
"You can be disappointed, but you cannot walk away," Edwards said. "This fight has just begun. … This campaign may end today, but the battle rages on."
With his re-election, Bush has achieved a feat his father, George H.W. Bush, did not accomplish.
His victory was convincing, as he got several million more votes nationwide than did Kerry and won the popular vote. In 2000, some critics perceived his victory as illegitimate because he won the presidency even though more Americans voted for then-Vice President Al Gore.
Bush's victory caps a successful Republican showing at the polls. The GOP retained control of both the House and the Senate.
Among the Democratic defeats, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle lost his South Dakota seat to former Rep. John Thune, marking the first time in 52 years that a party leader had been defeated.
In all, 34 Senate seats, 11 gubernatorial seats and all 435 House seats went before voters, who also approved measures in 11 states banning same-sex marriage.