The White House is claiming victory for Republican President George Bush over his Democratic Party challenger Senator John Kerry, saying the president has an insurmountable lead in the battleground state of Ohio that would give him more than the minimum number of electoral votes needed for re-election. But no victor has been declared in Ohio.
Addressing Republican loyalists in Washington, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card said President Bush's re-election is all but assured.
"We are convinced that President Bush has won re-election with at least 286 electoral college votes," Mr. Card said. And he also had a margin [advantage] of more than three-and-one-half million popular votes."
Mr. Card added that the results constitute a strong endorsement of Mr. Bush by the electorate.
But officially neither the president nor Senator Kerry has enough electoral votes to win. Electoral votes are divided up among the states according to population and congressional representation. Neither candidate can win without Ohio's 20 electoral votes. Mr. Bush is leading by a small, but significant, margin in Ohio, where provisional and ballots from overseas have yet to be counted.
The Kerry campaign says, until the final result is known in Ohio, a declaration of victory or a concession of defeat would be premature. Mr. Kerry's running mate, Senator John Edwards.
"John Kerry and I made a promise to the American people that in this election every vote would count and every vote would be counted," Sen. Edwards said. "Tonight we are keeping our word and we will fight for every vote."
Ohio's top elections official, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell, says the remaining ballots will be counted quickly and carefully.
"What I have told everyone to do is take a deep breath and relax. What we are going to give you is a solid tabulation," he said. "If it takes two hours, two days or two weeks, the result we give you will be a good result that the voters of the state of Ohio can have confidence in."
Meanwhile, the Republican Party has retained control of the House of Representatives and appears to have increased its majority in the Senate. A key loss for Democrats came in the state of South Dakota, where Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle lost to a Republican challenger, John Thune.