WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush won a second term from a divided and anxious nation, his promise of steady, strong wartime leadership trumping John Kerry's fresh-start approach to Iraq and joblessness. After a long, tense night of vote counting, the Democrat called Bush Wednesday to concede Ohio and the presidency, The Associated Press learned.
Kerry ended his quest, concluding one of the most expensive and bitterly contested races on record, with a call to the president shortly after 11 a.m. EST, according to two officials familiar with the conversation.
The victory gave Bush four more years to pursue the war on terror and a conservative, tax-cutting agenda - and probably the opportunity to name one or more justices to an aging Supreme Court.
He also will preside over expanded Republican majorities in Congress.
"Congratulations, Mr. President," Kerry said in the conversation described by sources as lasting less than five minutes. One of the sources was Republican, the other a Democrat.
The Democratic source said Bush called Kerry a worthy, tough and honorable opponent. Kerry told Bush the country was too divided, the source said, and Bush agreed. "We really have to do something about it," Kerry said according to the Democratic official.
Kerry placed his call after weighing unattractive options overnight. With Bush holding fast to a six-figure lead in make-or-break Ohio, Kerry could give up or trigger a struggle that would have stirred memories of the bitter recount in Florida that propelled Bush to the White House in 2000.