Kerry Concedes, Bush "Humbled"

This morning the unthinkable happened: John Kerry conceded [yahoo.com]the election, admitting he feels there is no way he can win in Ohio. The final electoral tally was 274 for Bush to 252 for Kerry. Bush's total is probably higher as Iowa and New Mexico seem to be in his wheelhouse, but haven't been called of yet. The full story won't be known for ten days, when Ohio actually counts all those provisional and absentee ballots(well, I guess they'll tally them up...at this point, who knows), but Kerry felt it was a long shot and that it was best just to "let the nation heal." His final speech [cnn.com] was just further proof of what a fine, intelligent person he is:

By the time Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry got to the eighth sentence of his concession speech, he'd said it all.

"I'm sorry that we got here a little bit late and a little bit short," the defeated presidential candidate said Wednesday afternoon.

The senator was a little more than an hour late for his scheduled 1 p.m. speech in Fanueil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, but it was the 3.5 million deficit in popular votes and the lack of 18 electoral votes that turned the breezy quip serious.

White House spokespeople earlier described Kerry's congratulatory phone call to President Bush as gracious and strong on reconciliation.

And Wednesday the junior Massachusetts senator made repeated references to unifying a divided nation that produced only a two percentage point difference in the popular vote for the two presidential candidates.

It started when he disclosed the contents of his conversation with the president. "... I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory, " Kerry said. "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. Today I hope that we can begin the healing."

He spoke with regret: "I wish, you don't know how much, that I could have brought this race home for you."

But he didn't have remorse: "It was a privilege and a gift to spend two years traveling this country, coming to know so many of you."

And about the uncounted votes, he was realistic: "... Even when all the provisional ballots are counted, which they will be, there won't be enough outstanding votes for us to be able to win Ohio. And therefore we cannot win this election."

Before dawn Republican politicians had begun murmuring that Kerry should concede. And at 4 a.m. White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card declared that the Bush campaign was certain of its victory.

About two hours earlier, Kerry running mate, Sen. John Edwards told a hopeful crowd in Boston's Copley Square that the party had waited four years for victory, and it was willing to wait another day.

But as the day lengthened, basic math dashed those hopes. There were not enough uncounted votes to cover the spread in Ohio which held the 20 electoral votes Kerry needed to win.

Kerry mentioned that as he returned to expressing his desire to unify the electorate. "The outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal process," he said. "I would not give up this fight if there was a chance that we would prevail."

Early Wednesday, Kerry advisers huddled with the candidate to decide what to do. Giving up prematurely would send the wrong message. Engaging in legal rancor could create more harm than healing.

So after more than 600 days of campaigning, the bitter contest ended at 2:14 p.m. on November 3 with Kerry's bid for unity:

"I did my best to express my vision and my hopes for America. We worked hard and we fought hard, and I wish that things had turned out a little differently," he said. "But in an American election, there are no losers, because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning we all wake up as Americans."

The event was enough to make anyone who had supported him want to cry. Even in defeat he was far more eloquent that George W. Bush will ever be.

Unfortunately, with Kerry giving a concession speech, Bush had to give a victory speech. He did so at about 3pm, in DC. Here's the rundown [yahoo.com]:

President Bush claimed a re-election mandate Wednesday after a record 59 million Americans chose him over Democrat John Kerry and voted to expand Republican control of Congress as well. He pledged to pursue his agenda on taxes and Iraq while seeking "the broad support of all Americans."

Kerry conceded defeat in make-or-break Ohio rather than launch a legal fight reminiscent of the contentious Florida recount of four years ago. "I hope that we can begin the healing," the Massachusetts senator said.

Claiming a second term denied his father, George H.W. Bush, the president struck a conciliatory tone, too. "A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation," he said, speaking directly to Kerry's supporters.

"To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it," he said. "I will do all I can do to deserve your trust."

It was a warm-and-fuzzy close to one of the longest, most negative presidential races in a generation.

Bush didn't use the word mandate, but Vice President Dick Cheney did, and the president's intention was clear as he ticked off a familiar list of second-term goals: overhaul the tax code and Social Security at home while waging war in Iraq and elsewhere to stem terror.

Bush stands to reshape the federal judiciary, starting with an aging Supreme Court that voted 5-4 to award him Florida four years ago. In all branches of government, the GOP now holds a solid, if not permanent, ruling majority.

Bush's vote totals were the biggest ever and his slice of the vote, 51 percent, made him the first president to claim a majority since 1988 when his father won 53 percent against Democrat Michael Dukakis.

Like Dukakis, Kerry is a Massachusetts politician who was labeled a liberal by a Bush. This president also called Kerry a flip-flopping opportunist who would fight feebly against terror.

None of that rancor was evident Wednesday, when Kerry called Bush to concede the race. He told Bush the country needed to be united, and Bush agreed. But the numbers suggest the country is deeply split.

Bush's victory ensures Republican dominance of virtually every quarter of the U.S. political system for years to come — the White House, Congress and the federal judiciary. Democrats pored over election results and sadly determined that the GOP base was bigger, more rural, suburban and Hispanic than they had ever imagined.

They looked within their own party, and found plenty of Democrats to blame — Kerry, his running mate John Edwards, their layers of consultants and legions of former Bill Clinton aides. The jockeying began in earnest for the 2008 race, with Edwards signaling his ambitions by pressing Kerry to wage a legal fight for Ohio. Democrats love to fight the GOP, particularly those Democrats who vote in primaries and caucuses.

"You can be disappointed, but you cannot walk away," Edwards told supporters at Kerry's concession. "This fight has just begun."

Supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, herself a potential candidate in 2008, accused Edwards of posturing.

Kerry himself showed no signs of exiting the political arena. "I'll never stop fighting for you," he told backers.

Still, it was a grim day for Democrats.

Party strategists had longed hoped to supplant their political losses in the Midwest and South with growth in the Hispanic-rich Western states, but those plans were put in doubt Tuesday night. Exit polls suggested that Bush had increased his minority share of the Hispanic vote since 2000.

One-third of Hispanics said they were born-again Christians and nearly 20 percent listed moral values as their top issue, suggesting they have more in common with Republicans than Democrats.

The election also vindicated Bush's unorthodox strategy of governing from the right and then targeting his voters with a volunteer-driven organization run through his campaign headquarters. Kerry played to the center and relied on a loosely knit conglomerate of liberal groups who paid get-out-the-vote workers.

Americans Coming Together, the Media Fund and other liberal special interest groups spent more than $200 million to defeat Bush. Kerry spent tens of millions more, and what did he get? Just one state won by Bush in 2000, New Hampshire, switched to the Democratic column this year.

Young voters didn't increase their turnout as Democrats had hoped. Neither did blacks or union members, two keys to the party's base.

Bush, meanwhile, saw a surge in rural and evangelical voters, according to strategists on both sides. The rural vote, once reliably Democratic, swelled in size and supported Bush over Kerry.

In Ohio, exit polls suggested the rural vote increased from 15 percent of the electorate in 2000 to 25 percent on Tuesday. Rural voters backed Bush over Kerry 60 percent to 40.

In Ohio and Florida, the two most important states Election Night, Democrats said they met their turnout targets, only to see Bush's forces trounce them. They said state ballot measures to ban gay marriage may have driven GOP voters to the polls.

The most stinging defeat was in Ohio, which may no longer be considered a swing state. With 232,000 jobs lost under Bush and state voters uneasy about Iraq, it was as ripe as it will ever be for Democrats, strategists said.

Ohio's 20 electoral votes gave Bush 279 in the Associated Press count, nine more than the 270 needed for victory. Kerry had 252 electoral votes, with Iowa's seven unsettled.

Bush beat Kerry by more than 3 million votes.

Of course, 3 million votes isn't so much when over 60 million vote in total. Perhaps we should consider that only 51% of the country voted for Bush while 49% voted against him. NPR quoted Bush as saying he was "humbled" by America's overwhelming support of him in the election. Considering he scared most of America to vote for him and the rest of them probably used the "best not to change Presidents in the middle of a war" excuse, I don't think humble is the right way to feel. Besides, I'm quite sure Bush wouldn't know humble if it jumped up and bit him in the ass.

More to follow...
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