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White House: Mandate set

Adam NagourneyThe New York Times

George Walker Bush declared victory in the race for president on Wednesday, driving a national election that bolstered Republican strength in Congress and led the White House to proclaim that Bush had won a mandate from the American public for a second term.Bush beamed as he stood with Vice President Dick Cheney at a rally in Washington, D.C., four hours after accepting a concession call at the White House from Sen. John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who waged a fierce challenge to unseat him.”We had a long night – and a great night,” Bush said. “The voters turned out in record numbers and delivered a historic victory.”America has spoken, and I’m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens,” he said. “With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans, and I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president.”In calling the president, Kerry abandoned a threat to contest the election result in Ohio in deference to a decisive popular vote victory by a man who four years ago won the presidency with less than 50 percent of the popular vote.”We cannot win this election,” Kerry said somberly to supporters at Faneuil Hall in Boston.The victory by Bush amounted to a striking turn in fortunes for the nation’s 43rd president, who had at times this year seemed destined to repeat his father’s fate of losing a second term because of a weak economy. Instead, Bush won more popular votes than any president in history – 58.6 million, or 3.5 million more than Kerry, albeit in a nation with an expanding population of voters – and positioned himself and his party to push through a conservative agenda in Washington over the next four years.Bush became the first Republican president since Calvin Coolidge to win re-election while gaining seats in the House in the Senate. The Republicans picked up at least two in the House and four in the Senate. While Republicans did not win enough seats to provide Bush a veto-proof Congress, the party’s surge did result in the defeat of Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Senate minority leader and one of the most familiar Democratic faces in Washington.Republican leaders were promising to renew efforts to pass bills Democrats had blocked, such as one permitting drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and another caps on lawsuit awards in liability cases.Bush spoke only in the broad terms of what he might do in a second term. But he strongly signaled that he was looking to stabilize the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq to allow the return of American soldiers.”We will help the emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan, so they can grow in strength and defend their freedom, and then our servicemen and -women will come home with the honor they have earned,” he said.Bush’s easy victory appeared to clear the way for a reshuffling of his Cabinet, with John Ashcroft, the attorney general, and Tom Ridge, the Homeland Security secretary, leading a list of Cabinet members likely to leave, according to administration officials.Cheney, in introducing the president at the rally at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center less than half mile from the White House, left little doubt about how this White House saw the election, and what it intended to do with it. He said the president had run “forthrightly on a clear agenda for this nation’s future, and the nation responded by giving him a mandate.”Bush’s victory was powered in no small part by a huge turn-out among Evangelical Christians, who are now likely to seek a bigger voice in key White House decisions over the next four years – in particular, nominations of Supreme Court justices that are likely to consume parts of Bush’s second term.Bush, as he did when he won four years ago, made a point in his victory speech of reaching out to Democrats, saying he wanted to unify a country that had been divided not only by the contest with Kerry, but by the circumstances of Bush’s victory four years ago.”I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent,” he said. “To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation. We have one country, one Constitution, and one future that binds us. “Kerry struck a similar tone in his concession speech in Boston – which at 16 minutes, lasted six minutes longer than Bush’s – though it reprised, if indirectly, some of the criticisms he had made of Bush during the campaign.”America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion,” Kerry said. ” I hope President Bush will advance those values in the coming years. I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide. “”I know this is a difficult time for my supporters, but I ask you – all of you – to join me in doing this,” said Kerry, whose voice cracked at times in an uncharacteristic display of public emotionThat said, by any measure, the Bush victory rocked the political landscape in Washington. Aides to both parties said they were doubtful – given the history of the past four years – that the capital was headed for a period of political calm, no matter what the president and Kerry said in the aftermath of their bitter competition.”I don’t think a 51-49 election is any mandate,” Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic National Committee chairman said in an interview. “George Bush won, and I congratulate him on that. They ran a very effective campaign and he won. They need to be very careful that they now need to govern from the middle in a bipartisan way. This country as we saw in the election is very evenly split.”


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