04/11/2004

Divided America urged to unite behind Bush presidency

After the bitter presidential campaign battle, one that cleaved the US Janus-like into coastal Democrats versus Mid-West/southern Republicans, George Bush has issued a rallying call for all Americans to unite behind his presidency.

In his first speech following the results, President Bush began by paying tribute to his "very gracious" rival John Kerry, who conceded the race after it became clear that he had lost Ohio – the linchpin for victory in this year's poll.

"Senator Kerry waged a spirited campaign, and he and his supporters can be proud of their efforts. Laura and I wish Senator Kerry and Teresa and their whole family all our best wishes," Mr Bush said.

Extending this conciliatory tone to the electorate, Mr Bush directly appealed to Democrat voters for their support over the next four years.

"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," he said.

"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."

He also spoke of the need for "good allies at our side" to secure freedom and peace in the face of terrorism.

It was an election for the record books – the largest-ever plebiscite; the largest-ever vote for a winning candidate; the largest-ever vote for a sitting president. And with 57 million votes in the bag, Tuesday's poll gave Mr Bush control of the senate and the House of Representatives.

There is also the possibility that President Bush could rebalance the Supreme Court, as the age of the panel, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist's thyroid cancer diagnosis, could mean new appointments to the nine-member panel will open up in the second term.

Giving a flavour of what his second term will bring, Mr Bush pledged to help emerging democracies and "uphold our deepest values of family and faith". He also highlighted the economy, public schools, social security, and tax code reform as priorities for the incoming administration.

Assessing his first term – "four historic years" – Mr Bush said: "Our people have restored the vigour of this economy, and shown resolve and patience in a new kind of war. Our military has brought justice to the enemy, and honour to America. Our nation has defended itself, and served the freedom of all mankind. I'm proud to lead such an amazing country, and I'm proud to lead it forward."

He went on to thank Republican voters for their hugs, prayers and incredible work in the campaign.

(gmcg/sp)

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