JIM LEHRER: President Bush became the clear winner of the 2004 presidential election today. It happened when Sen. Kerry conceded defeat, acknowledging he could not overcome the president's margin in the key state of Ohio.
The Associated Press said that gave Mr. Bush 279 electoral votes, nine more than he needed to win. Sen. Kerry had 252. The president also led in the last uncalled state, Iowa, for seven more electoral votes. Nationwide, Mr. Bush also won the popular vote, 51 percent to 48 percent.
He had a margin of 3.5 million votes over Sen. Kerry. The senator publicly accepted his defeat in a concession speech this afternoon at historic Faneuil Hall in Boston.
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you. (Cheers and applause) Earlier today, I spoke to President Bush and I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory. We had a good conversation and we talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together.
Today, I hope that we can begin the healing. In America... ( applause ) in America, it is vital that every vote count and that every vote be counted. But the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal process. I would not give up this fight if there was a chance that we would prevail. But it is now clear that even when all the provisional ballots are counted-- which they will be-- there won't be enough outstanding votes for us to be able to win Ohio, and therefore we cannot win this election.
My friends, it was here that we began our campaign for the presidency, and all we had was hope and a vision for a better America. It was a privilege and a gift to spend two years traveling this country, coming to know so many of you. I wish that I could just wrap you up in my arms and embrace each and every one of you individually all across this nation. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. (Cheers and applause)
VOICE IN AUDIENCE: We absolutely loved you!
VOICE IN AUDIENCE: We've still got your back! (Laughter)
SEN. JOHN KERRY: Thank you, man. (Cheers and applause) and I'm... and I assure you, you watch, I'll still love yours. So, hang in there. (Cheers and applause) I want to especially say to the American people, in this journey you have given me the honor and the gift of listening and learning from you.
I have visited your homes, I visited your churches, I visited your community halls. I've heard your stories. I know your struggles. I know your hopes. They are part of me now. And I will never forget you and I'll never stop fighting for you. (Cheers and applause) I did my best to express my vision and my hopes for America. We worked hard and we fought hard, and I wish that things had turned out a little differently.
But in an American election, there are no losers because whether or not our candidates are successful, the next morning, we all wake up as Americans. (Applause) And that... that is the greatest privilege and the most remarkable good fortune that can come to us on earth; with that gift also comes obligation.
We are required now to work together for the good of our country. In the days ahead, we must find common cause. We must join in common effort without remorse or recrimination, without anger or rancor.
America is in need of unity and longing for a larger measure of compassion. 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 them, all of you, to join me in doing that. Now more than ever, with our soldiers in harm's way, we must stand together and succeed in Iraq and win the war on terror.
I'll never forget the wonderful people who came to our rallies, who stood in our rope lines, who put their hopes in our hands, who invested in each and every one of us. I saw in them the truth that America is not only great, but it is good.
So here ... (applause) so with a grateful heart, I leave this campaign with a prayer that has even greater meaning to me now that I have come to know our vast country so much better thanks to all of you and what a privilege it has been to do so. And that prayer is very simple: God bless America. Thank you. (Cheers and applause)
JIM LEHRER: Then, a short time later, Mr. Bush made his victory statement in Washington at the Ronald Reagan federal building.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We had a long night... (laughter) ...and a great night. (Cheers and applause) The voters turned out in record numbers and delivered an historic victory. (Cheers and applause)
Earlier today, Sen. Kerry called with his congratulations. We had a really good phone call. He was very gracious. Sen. Kerry waged a spirited campaign and he and his supporters can be proud of their efforts. (Applause) Laura and I wish Sen. Kerry and Teresa and their whole family all our best wishes. America has spoken and I'm humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens.
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. (Cheers and applause) I want to thank the thousands of our supporters across our country. I want to thank you for your hugs on the rope lines. I want to thank you for your prayers on the rope lines.
I want to thank you for your kind words on the rope lines. I want to thank you for everything you did to make the calls and to put up the signs, to talk to your neighbors and to get out the vote. (Cheers and applause) And because you did the incredible work, we are celebrating today. (Cheers and applause) There's an old saying: "Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks." In four historic years, America has been given great tasks and faced them with strength and courage.
Our people have restored the vigor of this economy and shown resolve and patience in a new kind of war. Our military has brought justice to the enemy and honor to America. (Cheers and applause) Our nation has defended itself and served the freedom of all mankind. I'm proud to lead such an amazing country and I am proud to lead it forward. (Applause)
Because we have done the hard work, we are entering a season of hope. We will continue our economic progress. We will reform our outdated tax code. We will strengthen the Social Security for the next generation. We will make public schools all they can be. And we will uphold our deepest values of family and faith.
We will help the emerging democracies of Iraq and Afghanistan... (Cheers and applause) ...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. (Cheers and applause) With good allies at our side, we will fight this war on terror with every resource of our national power so our children can live in freedom and in peace. (Cheers and applause)
Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans, so today I want to speak to every person who voted for my opponent. 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. And when we come together and work together, there is no limit to the greatness of America. (Cheers and applause) A campaign has ended and the United States of America goes forward with confidence and faith.
I see a great day coming for our country and I am eager for the work ahead. God bless you and may God bless America. (Cheers and applause)
MARGARET WARNER: What the Kerry aides say is that, you know, you have to think of it as an outgrowth of really last night when he went back to his house at 7:30 P.M. and worked on his victory speech he thought he was giving at 10:00 P.M. Or 11:00 P.M.
Long after Sen. Kerry had gone to bed the staff stayed up until 4:00 A.M. really trying to figure out what the situation was on the ground in Ohio and concluded they still didn't have enough information. They wanted to get every county and every precinct and not what the provisional ballots were.
So when the meeting resumed at 8:00 A.M., at first Sen. Kerry was not in, in this meeting I'm told. There were a lot of lawyers. There were war rooms both in Boston and in New York. The lawyers were very insistent that the thing to do was go into courts all over Ohio right now and start disputing the whole counting process of the regular ballots, never mind the provisional ballots.
They had, however, looked at the numbers of the provisional ballots and seen, as Sen. Kerry said, there were not enough, even if they got 90 percent of 90 percent, the math just wasn't there. So at some point, Sen. Kerry was brought into this conversation by just, you know, phone, and Sen. Edwards, who was in another part of the same hotel, and he asked all the same questions.
What they basically said is you have two options: You can either accept what we think is the reality, or we have to have what one aide called a holy war, what another aide called a scorched earth, which was the legal approach I mentioned.
He then got off the phone, had some private conversations with Sen. Edwards, a private conversation with his wife and then called back Mary Beth Cahill and said, you know, let's do it, it's over.
JIM LEHRER: The reality being that there were just not enough votes in Ohio for him to win, right, that they could see at least?
MARGARET WARNER: They could see... all the focus today has been on the provisional ballots, if you opened all these. Okay. They concluded they would not have enough votes to even trigger a recount.
There is a mechanism in Ohio, and don't hold me to this, but it's like a quarter of 1 percent. That's what they were thinking about. Could we get to the point where we could get a recount? They didn't think they could get there.
The legal team was urging an even more aggressively strategy based on the Florida example, which is don't let them get to the next stage at all in counting provisional ballots. Let's go in and challenge all the rules that the secretary of state set up, all the ways all the counting was going to just open up the whole thing.
JIM LEHRER: I was intrigued by what you said. Early last evening, they thought they had won this. This was based on these wonderful exit polls that everybody got during the day yesterday?
MARGARET WARNER: Based on these exit polls which jived with their own polling and also their people on the ground who were saying really that they weren't just spinning us out talking to us, they really thought that both Florida and Ohio were going their way and Pennsylvania in a big way.
So one aide said to me today, he said, it never hit us like a sledgehammer last night. It was sort of, well, gee, Pennsylvania doesn't look as good as the exits are saying. Then it was Florida looks tighter, but we're still going to win. Then it was, well, no, Florida is looking redder now.
But Ohio we're in great shape. Then, you know, they lost. So on. It was just slowly realizing that, you know, the man who thought he was president-elect... he and his speechwriter, Bob Shrum, were sitting in the house on Louisburg Square working on the victory speech last night.
JIM LEHRER: Is there conventional wisdom within the campaign, Margaret, tonight as to why Sen. Kerry lost this election?
MARGARET WARNER: There is. It all has to do with turnout. We heard a lot about turnout. As you and I discussed last night, they always had this strategy of growing the vote beyond 2000.
And they did grow Kerry's vote some five, six million more than Al Gore's, but Karl Rove and George Bush grew the Bush vote by eight million. One aide said to me today, I'm going to look down at my notes here, he said, you know, Margaret, the Republicans were talking to five, six, seven million people that we don't understand at all.
And he said, you and the press don't understand them either. And the pollsters aren't picking them up. They believe it was done through churches and sort of church networks and friends and this was the Karl Rove strategy, but it was just wildly successful, more successful than even Rove had predicted in raw numbers.
So, you know, the Kerry folks, they feel they grew the base of the party, the Republicans outdid it.
JIM LEHRER: Okay. All right, Margaret. Thank you very much.
MARGARET WARNER: Thanks, Jim.