President Bush declared victory in the 2004 presidential election moments ago, telling supporters "America has spoken." An hour earlier, Sen. John Kerry conceded defeat to Bush and asked the country to put aside the bitter divisions of the election.
"We've worked hard and gained many new friends, and the result is now clear -- a record voter turnout and a broad, nationwide victory," Bush said.
Bush became the first U.S. presidential candidate since his father to win with more than 50 percent of the vote.
"America has spoken, and I'm humbled by the trust and the confidence of my fellow citizens," Bush said. "With that trust comes a duty to serve all Americans. And I will do my best to fulfill that duty every day as your president."
Vice President Dick Cheney, who introduced Bush, said that voters gave the president a mandate.
Bush praised Sen. John Kerry and said the Massachusetts senator and his supporters should be proud of their spirited campaign.
About an hour before Bush made his speech, Kerry conceded defeat to President Bush in Boston and asked the country to put the bitter divisions of the election behind them.
"I spoke to President Bush and I offered him and Laura our congratulations on their victory," Kerry said in a speech to a cheering crowd in Boston.
"We talked about the division in our country and the need, desperate need, for unity. Today, I hope we can begin the healing."
Kerry said he was giving up any plans to challenge the vote count in Ohio, where the tally is incomplete.
CNN now projects Bush the winner of Ohio's 20 electoral votes, giving the president 274 electoral votes -- he needed 270 for re-election.
The president was making a speech Wednesday afternoon. Aides said Bush would commit to reaching out to Democrats during his address.
Kerry called Bush at his Oval Office desk about 11:02 a.m. ET, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. During the brief conversation, Bush told the senator he was "an admirable, worthy opponent."
"You waged one tough campaign," McClellan quoted the president as saying. "I hope you are proud of the effort you put in. You should be."
Kerry "could not have been more gracious," said Bush adviser Karl Rove. "The senator told the president, 'I want to work with you to heal the country,' " Rove quoted Kerry as saying.
Kerry called the president after he and advisers reviewed voting returns from Ohio.
Republicans also added to their majorities in the House and Senate, where they knocked off the Democrats' top senator, Tom Daschle of South Dakota. The GOP was on its way to a net gain of at least three Senate seats.
Other key Republican takeovers were in Louisiana, where Rep. David Vitter became the state's first GOP senator since Reconstruction, and in Florida, where Mel Martinez defeated Betty Castor to take retiring Democratic Sen. Bob Graham's seat.
One Senate seat remains too close to call -- the race in Alaska between incumbent Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski and former Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles, but Murkowski was holding the lead.
In the House, Republicans were on their way to a net gain of at least four seats, including a pickup of five Democratic seats in Texas, where a controversial redistricting plan pushed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay redrew the state's map to make it more Republican-friendly.
Democrats had few bright spots: Melissa Bean defeated longtime GOP Rep. Phil Crane, the Republicans' longest-serving congressman, in Illinois and in Colorado, rancher John Salazar won out over orchard owner Greg Walcher.
In Georgia, John Barrow was on the verge of knocking out incumbent GOP Rep. Max Burns, but the race has not yet been called.
On the Senate side, Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama, a rising Democratic star, won by a large margin over Republican Alan Keyes. Democratic Attorney General Ken Salazar won in Colorado over Republican beer magnate Pete Coors.
Early Wednesday morning, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card told supporters at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington that he was convinced of the president's victory, saying the last three undecided states -- Ohio, Iowa and New Mexico would bring, "at least 286 Electoral College votes."
Few states switched from one party to the other from four years ago. New Hampshire, which Bush narrowly won in 2000, went for Kerry. Bush has so far won no state carried by Gore four years ago, but would do so by taking either Iowa or New Mexico. He holds leads in both states.
In the popular vote, which Bush lost four years ago, the president was carrying 51 percent to 48 percent for Kerry and 1 percent for independent Ralph Nader.
Election Day ballot measures in eleven states voted not to legalize same-sex marriages, but opponents already were preparing countermeasures.
Initiatives banning same-sex marriage and/or civil unions that appeared on ballots in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah passed overwhelmingly in each, setting the stage for legal challenges.
Lambda Legal Defense Fund, a gay rights advocacy group, said Wednesday that it is awaiting certification of the elections but is already preparing lawsuits to nullify the results.
California voters, who faced 16 statewide ballot measures, are projected to pass a measure to establish a constitutional right to conduct research using stem cells and to authorize $3 billion for such research.
A ballot measure approving the use of marijuana for medical reasons is projected to pass in Montana.
Colorado voters are projected to reject a proposal to change its winner-take-all to allocated electoral votes for presidential candidates.
A Florida measure to require parental notification before minors can obtain an abortion is projected to pass.
Gambling is another hot ballot issue, with six states deciding 13 measures.