President George W. Bush claimed four more years in the White House on Wednesday after defeating Sen. John Kerry with 274 to 252 electoral votes. Bush vowed to his cheering supporters to pursue his agenda on taxes and Iraq while seeking the “support of all Americans.”
Kerry conceded defeat in make-or-break Ohio rather than launch legal fights that would have repeated actions taken in Florida in 2000.
“I’m sorry that we got here a little bit late and little bit short,” Kerry told supporters in Boston on Wednesday. “Today, I hope we can begin the healing.”
The last president to claim more than 50 percent of the popular vote was Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, in 1988.
“I’m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens. With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans,” Bush said in his victory speech Wednesday in Washington, D.C. “And I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president.”
The president spoke before thousands of supporters less than an hour after Kerry ended his campaign.
“I wish I could just wrap you up in my arms and embrace each and every one of you individually all across the nation,” Kerry said. “I thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
Bush praised Kerry and said the Massachusetts senator and his supporters should be proud of their efforts in such a “spirited campaign.”
Kerry telephoned Bush early Wednesday after weighing the options overnight to congratulate him and wife Laura for their victory. Ohio’s 20 electoral votes gave Bush 274, four more than the 270 needed for victory. Kerry had 252 electoral votes, with Iowa (7) and New Mexico (5) unsettled.
“We had a good conversation, and 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,” Kerry said.
“Earlier today, Sen. Kerry called with his congratulations. We had a really good phone call. He was very gracious,” Bush said.
Bush was winning 51 percent of the popular vote to Kerry’s 48 percent.
Edwin J. Benton, a USF political science professor, stayed up all night to watch the election results. Benton said with the re-election of the president, the United States and the world could see a transparent plan for foreign policy.
“His win sends a clear message to allies and to potential terrorists that they are going to have to deal with a tough guy,” Benton said. “Bush would like to have them (allies) along to fight, but he will go alone.”
Benton said as far as internal actions go in the United States, he doesn’t see any major changes in policy because of the lack of common ground between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
“It’s a tug of war,” he said. “No winning. It’s a stalemate. I hope it doesn’t happen, but given the nature of both sides….”
With Republicans also adding their majorities to the House and Senate, Benton said that the Democratic Party is going to have to do some soul searching before 2008.
“I am hoping that the two sides come to some agreement and come to more middle ground,” he said. “The Democratic Party over the years has lost key components in the South, union workers and Catholics, who were major pillars in the party but are not anymore.”
Another issue facing the president re-elect is the possibility of some changes in the Supreme Court justices, Benton said.
However, Benton added that over the past four years Bush has had trouble appointing other federal judges because they were not getting Senate approval. Benton said he believes that the same thing could happen with the future Supreme Court justice appointments.
“Every time Bush tried to appoint a federal appellate judge, the Democrats would threaten a filibuster,” Benton said.
Benton added that the fact that Kerry waited it out was a good move. Kerry himself pointed out to his supporters that even when all the provisional ballots are counted, there still would not be enough outstanding votes for his campaign to win Ohio.
“If I were him I would have waited with the recount. He had the right to see any errors or other things, if he had a chance of winning,” Benton said.
“But I think he realized that it was not worth putting the country through a contest. He had an obligation to himself and to the people to make the right decision.”