Bush camp declares victory, Kerry concedes

Democratic challenger John Kerry has telephoned President George Bush to concede the election to the White House, according to campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter.

    Bush won the popular vote by a convincing margin

    Kerry is expected to make a formal

    statement later in the morning.

    The Democrat had remained behind closed doors in his house in a

    Boston neighbourhood on Wednesday, as advisers wrestled whether to admit defeat

    in Ohio, a move that would have effectively

    handed Bush a second term in

    office.

    Bush's Republican campaign had already declared victory in the m

    idwestern state, saying the president has a "statistically

    insurmountable" lead of 130,000 votes.

    "We are convinced that President Bush has won re-election with

    at least 286 Electoral College votes," Andrew Card, the White House

    chief of staff, told a Republican campaign victory rally in

    Washington early on Wednesday.

    The aide called it a "decisive margin" of victory, with the

    president more than 3.5 million votes ahead of Kerry.

    "In this election, President Bush received more votes than any

    presidential candidate in our country's history."

    Archaic electoral system

    But for the second straight time, a US presidential election

    foundered on the archaic US system based on 538 electoral votes that

    are awarded in separate state contests.

    Kerry (R) won at least 18 states

    The candidates and officials of both parties had been hoping to

    avoid a replay of the 2000 debacle, when Bush won only after a

    36-day legal battle over the recount.

    In the end, Bush won the election

    by 537 votes.

    Network projections early on Wednesday gave the Republican 28

    states with 254 electoral votes, short of the 270 needed to win.

    Kerry had 18 states and the federal capital, Washington DC, for 242

    electoral votes.

    The president led Kerry nationwide by 3.5 million votes, a sweet

    reversal from four years ago, when he lost the popular tally to Gore

    by more than half a million votes.

    Ohio stalemate

    Ohio's 20 electors would bring Bush to the brink of victory.

    Without them, he would need to snatch the midwestern states of

    Wisconsin (with 10 electors) and Iowa (with seven) from the

    Democrats. Both were too close to call.

    The Democrats earlier said as many as 250,000 provisional ballots, which

    are subject to verification of the voter's eligibility, could hold

    the balance in Ohio, where Bush led by more than 130,000 votes,

    according to the state's unofficial toll.

    "In this election, President Bush received more votes than any

    presidential candidate in our country's history"

    Andrew Card,
    White House Chief of Staff

    Thousands of lawyers from both parties were ready to challenge

    close results after the longest and costliest campaign in US

    history, and the first presidential election since the September 11,

    2001, attacks.

    Up to 120 million people cast ballots in the election, in which

    each party held on to the states it had won in the 2000 contest

    between Bush and Democrat Al Gore - except for the Republican loss

    of New Hampshire and its four electors.

    Turnout seemed to have approached a four-decade high, with long

    lines of voters reported across the country.

    Some queued for up to

    nine hours to cast ballots.

    High turnout

    So intense was the interest that some polling centres in Ohio

    and Pennsylvania stayed open after their scheduled close to

    accommodate the huge throngs.

    Some claims of irregularities surfaced in Florida, however, with

    several voters complaining they had received phone calls or flyers

    sending them to the wrong polling precincts.

    The candidates left their political fate in the voters' hands on Tuesday

    after eight months and a billion dollars of campaigning.

    The election campaign produced
    unusually high voter interest

    US voters also decided the composition of Congress, where

    Republicans increased their majority in the 100-member Senate and

    435-seat House of Representatives.

    Voters cast ballots in the first election in 30 years to be held

    with US troops fighting abroad, delivering their verdict after a

    heated debate over the 2003 invasion of Iraq and a question of who

    could keep America safer from "terrorists".

    Bush, 58, the born-again Christian son of ex-president George

    Bush, campaigned as a "war president" ready to take the United

    States into battle alone if necessary to safeguard the country.

    The 60-year-old Kerry, a decorated Vietnam War veteran, took a

    more nuanced stand, preaching the need to repair alliances rent by

    the Iraq war and to reconstruct an international consensus on the

    global war against "terrorism".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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