Democratic Party candidate John Kerry has conceded the U.S. presidential election to Republican President George Bush. Mr. Kerry placed the call to the White House one day after Americans went to the polls in record numbers.
Four years ago, Americans had to wait weeks to learn who their president would be, as the race hinged on the hotly-contested state of Florida. This year, the specter of another long wait loomed, with thousands of provisional ballots still being counted in the critical state of Ohio. But, with Senator Kerry's concession, the wait is over.
President Bush has a small but significant lead in Ohio's vote count and election officials in the state say that there are not enough uncounted ballots to change the result in Senator Kerry's favor.
Ohio's 20 electoral votes will put President Bush above the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election. A total of 538 electoral votes are divided up among states according to population and congressional representation.
Even before Mr. Kerry's concession, Bush-loyalists had sounded confident. Addressing campaign staffers in Washington early Wednesday, 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," he said. "And he also had a margin [advantage] of more than 3.5 million popular votes."
Mr. Card added that the results constitute a strong endorsement of Mr. Bush by the electorate.
For it's part, the Kerry campaign early Wednesday had pressed for a full tabulation of votes before claiming victory or conceding defeat. 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," he said. "Tonight we are keeping our word and we will fight for every vote."
But after consulting with his aides Wednesday morning, Senator Kerry apparently determined it was a battle that could not be won, and he called the president to concede the election.
Meanwhile, the Republican Party has strengthened its control of the both the House of Representatives and the Senate. A key loss for Democrats came in the state of South Dakota, where Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle lost to Republican John Thune.
Also, voters in 11 states approved measures to ban same-sex marriage.