Shortly after 11 a.m. ET, President George W. Bush received a phone call from Sen. John Kerry, to concede the 2004 presidential election.
“Congratulations, Mr. President,” Kerry reportedly said during the three- to four-minute phone call. The President, in turn, told the Massachusetts senator, “I think you were an admirable, worthy opponent” and waged “one tough campaign,” according to White House press secretary Scott McClellan. “I hope you are proud of the effort you put in. You should be,” the aide quoted Bush as saying.
Bush later told aides that Kerry was “very gracious” on the phone.
The president delivered his brief victory speech at 3 p.m. in Washington’s Ronald Reagan Building. “We had a long night and a great night,” he said.
Thanking Americans for their support and the record turnout of voters, the chief executive said, “I am humbled by the confidence and trust of my fellow citizens. I will do my best to fulfill that duty as your president.”
In thanking those closest to him, Bush said: “Laura is the love of my life. I m glad you love her, too. I want to thank my daughters for joining their dad on his last campaign.” He acknowledged the support from his siblings, and thanked “my parents for their loving support.”
Before the president s remarks, Vice President Dick Cheney, mentioning his home state, joked with the crowd, saying, “Once again, I delivered the state of Wyoming to the Bush-Cheney ticket.” He said the two would “stand and guard America.”
Earlier in the day, Kerry and his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, delivered their concession speeches at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, with Edwards promising supporters: “We will keep marching toward that one America.”
When his turn came at the podium, Kerry, who still has a Senate term to serve, thanked the crowd for its “love and affection,” and apologized for “coming up short.”
He spoke of his call to President Bush, saying, “I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory,” and explained, “We talked about the dangers of division in our country” and the desperate need for unity.
He said that voters should determine the election, not a protracted legal process, and though he would see to it that every ballot in Ohio would be counted, it was evident that there would not be enough votes to alter the outcome. He also warmly thanked each and every member of his family.
Wednesday’s messages followed a long, tense night of vote counting in which the TV networks were hard-pressed to call a winner. By the time of Kerry’s public concession speech, the tallies stood at 29 states and 51 percent of the vote for Bush, compared to Kerry’s 20 states and 48 percent. The incumbent led the popular vote by some 3 million.