Standing beneath a large oil painting of 19th century orator Daniel Webster, in a room filled with his family and political advisors, Senator John Kerry acknowledged Wednesday (November 3) that his bid to become the 44th president of the United States had come to an end, conceding the election to George W. Bush.
"I would not give up this fight if there was a chance we would prevail, but it is now clear that there will not be enough outstanding votes for us to win Ohio. And therefore, we cannot win this election," Kerry said. "It has been a privilege and a gift to spend two years traveling this country, coming to know so many of you. I thank you from the bottom of my heart."
More than 12 hours after the last polls closed in Hawaii and Alaska, Kerry spoke from behind the wooden lectern at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall, fighting back tears and congratulating Bush on a hard-fought victory. But during the 15-minute speech, the senator also called on Bush to heal the deep wounds of division that this election has made all the more apparent.
"There is a desperate need for unity, for finding a common ground, and for coming together. Today I hope we can begin the healing," Kerry said. "I wish things would have turned out differently ... but the next morning we all wake up as Americans. We are required now to work together for the good of our country. We must find a common cause. America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion."
Kerry received lengthy rounds applause from the crowd at Faneuil Hall, which included wife Teresa, daughters Alexandra and Vanessa, running mate John Edwards, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, and more than a few of his (very vocal) supporters.
"We've still got your back!" one man shouted from the crowd.
"Thank you," Kerry answered. "And I assure you. You watch, I'll still have yours."
Around 11 a.m. Wednesday morning, Kerry reportedly called Bush to discuss his plans to concede the election. A Kerry advisor said the senator decided to concede the race because he didn't feel he could obtain the number of votes needed to win the state of Ohio. The Bush inner circle was reportedly ready to go forward and declare victory but was waiting to give Kerry ample time to concede first.
Kerry's admission of defeat comes surprisingly quickly given that America awoke to an election without a clear winner. The Kerry campaign had held out hope that votes in urban areas of Ohio would tip the balance. And there was still the matter of uncounted provisional ballots, which were instituted as an attempt to fix some of the problems that occurred in Florida during the fiercely contested election between President Bush and former Vice President Al Gore in 2000. Provisional ballots are cast when there is a question about the eligibility of the voter, leaving it up to the state to sort out any issues after the election.
But in the end, Bush's lead in Ohio — he is up by more than 130,000 votes, according to CBS News — appears significant enough to give him the state. Ohio was a pivotal battleground throughout the election, and the candidates visited more than 80 times during the campaign.
The concession brings to a close the most expensive presidential race in the country's history. CBS News now projects that President Bush is ahead on electoral votes 274 to Kerry's 252, giving him more than the 270 needed to win. Still not fully counted were votes from Iowa and New Mexico.
Bush also holds a lead in the popular vote over Kerry, 51 to 48 percent, taking more popular votes than any president in history due to heavy voter turnout.