Less than an hour after Senator John Kerry conceded the 2004 election on Wednesday, President George W. Bush was finally able to say something his father never could:
"A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to a nation," he said. "The voters turned out in record numbers and delivered a historic victory."
Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C., before a raucous, flag-waving crowd on Wednesday afternoon (November 3), Bush thanked Kerry for a "spirited" campaign, calling him "very gracious." He also reached out to those who voted for the Democratic challenger, calling for unity and — as Kerry had mentioned in his concession speech — a need to end the feelings of division in America.
"Today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. To make this nation stronger and better, I need your support, and I will work hard to earn it," Bush said. "I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. ... We have one country, one Constitution and one future that binds us. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America."
In accepting Kerry's concession and winning a second term in office, Bush brings to a close one of the most contentious, divisive and hotly contested elections in recent history.
As the clock struck midnight on the East Coast Tuesday night, Bush held a slim lead over Kerry in Electoral College votes, several key states remained up in the air, and pundits from coast to coast were declaring that the race for the White House would be coming down to the wire.
What a difference 15 hours can make.
Around 9 a.m. ET Wednesday morning, Ohio's 20 Electoral College votes went to Bush, guaranteeing him victory. At 11 a.m., Kerry called Bush and made his intentions to concede the election known. At 2:15 p.m., Kerry gave his concession speech in Boston, and less than an hour later George W. Bush accepted that concession.
"I would not give up this fight if there was a chance we would prevail," Kerry said in his speech, "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. 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."
Speaking from behind a wooden lectern at Boston's historic Faneuil Hall, Kerry fought back tears and congratulated 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 of applause from the crowd, which included his 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."
CBS News' latest projections show President Bush with 274 electoral votes to Kerry's 252, giving him more than the 270 needed to win. Still not fully counted are 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, thanks to heavy voter turnout.