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President Bush Pledges to Unite Country in Second Term

The president said, “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.”

Citing the “hard work of the last four years,” the president said the nation was entering a “season of hope” and promised to focus on critical issues in the next four years, including reforming the tax code, modifying and strengthening Social Security and continuing the war on terror.

The president also claimed an electoral mandate for his policies, one that eluded him after he won the presidency in 2000 without winning the popular vote.

“America has spoken, and I’m humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens,” President Bush said to cheering supporters at the Reagan Federal Building in downtown Washington. “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.”

Vice President Dick Cheney, who introduced the president, hailed the campaign as “an uplifting experience” and the result as a “broad nationwide victory” that delivered the White House to the Republicans, as well as increased majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.

Analysts expect President Bush’s second term to usher in changes to the Cabinet, but any major policy changes were likely to be unveiled at the State of the Union address in January.

The president’s speech followed an address to the nation by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in which he conceded the vote in Ohio and pledged to support Mr. Bush and to work to heal the nation.

“Earlier today, I spoke to President Bush, and I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory,” Senator Kerry told supporters at Boston’s Faneuil Hall. “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.”

President Bush praised Senator Kerry and thanked him for his congratulations.

“We had a really good phone call. He was very gracious,” Mr. Bush said. “Senator Kerry waged a spirited campaign, and he and his supporters can be proud of their efforts.”

Senator Kerry’s concession averted what could have been a protracted fight over tens of thousands of so-called provisional votes in the critical battleground state of Ohio. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Bush led the senator by some 136,000 votes. According to the secretary of the state’s Web site, the department had issued some 135,000 provisional ballots.

Some advisers urged the Massachusetts senator to wait until all provisional and absentee votes were counted before giving up, but Mr. Kerry decided such a move would add to the bitterly divided political atmosphere.

“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,” the senator 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 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.”

Although stressing the need for unity, both the senator and his running mate Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., pledged to continue the fight for the principals of the Democratic Party and the themes of their campaign.

“I want to talk to the tens of millions of people who worked alongside us, who believed in our cause and who stood with us: You can be disappointed, but you cannot walk away. This fight has just begun,” Edwards said in introducing Senator Kerry. “Together, we will carry on, and we will be with you every step of the way.”

The senator called Mr. Bush shortly before 11 a.m. to concede defeat after his campaign determined Ohio was out of reach.

“Congratulations, Mr. President,” he reportedly said during the brief phone call.

According to a Democratic source, Senator Kerry added the nation was too divided and that “we really have to do something about it.”

President Bush, according to aides, agreed with the senator’s comments and thanked him for the call.

“I think you were an admirable, worthy opponent,” Mr. Bush told Senator Kerry, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan. “You waged one tough campaign. I hope you are proud of the campaign you put in. You should be.”

President Bush’s popular and electoral vote victories were fueled in large part by voters focused on values as well as increased support from Latino, urban, Jewish, Catholic and female voters, according to exit polls.

Mr. Bush captured 47 percent of the female vote (up 4 percent compared to 2000) and 42 percent of the Latino vote (up 7 points).

He did very well among regular churchgoers, outpacing Kerry by 21 points among exit poll respondents who attended services at least once a week.

Many of the churchgoers, coupled with other social conservatives, listed “moral values” as the most important issue influencing their vote. Some 22 percent of exit poll respondents listed values as the top issue, making it more important than the economy, terrorism or Iraq. Among voters whose top concern was morals, the president scored 79 percent to Senator Kerry’s 18 percent. Mr. Bush did similarly well among the 19 percent who identified terrorism as their top issue.

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