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Kerry concedes - Florida re-play averted

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US President George W Bush has been re-elected by a substantial margin in the popular vote, that is, 58,941,293 (51 per cent) to Kerry's 55,353,453 (48 per cent).

"America has spoken, and I'm humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens," the President said in a victory speech Wednesday.

The President outlined briefly his objectives for the next four years, unchanged from those of the past: he made references to continuing tax reform, continuing privatization efforts in Social Security, further overtures towards "family and faith," and continuing commitments in Iraq. He did not offer any specifics.

"We are entering a season of hope," the President said.

In his concession speech, US Senator John Kerry said that he doubted he could win Ohio even after a thorough tabulation of the provisional ballots.

"In America, it is vital that every vote count, and that every vote be counted. But the outcome should be decided by voters, not a protracted legal process. I would not give up this fight if there was a chance that we would prevail," the Senator said.

Kerry will return to the Senate. "I pledge to do my part to try to bridge the partisan divide," he said.

Meanwhile, Republicans gained seats in both chambers of Congress. The current balance is 51 to 48 in the Senate, and 228 to 206 in the House. So far, Republicans have added three seats in the Senate, with two races still undecided, and four seats in the House, with one race still undecided.

The combination of a popular mandate for the President and a more heavily Republican Congress should give Bush an advantage in pressing his agenda, at least until ambitious Republicans on the Hill begin jockeying for his job in 2008. But that is not likely to begin until mid 2005 at the earliest. ®

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