Washington — President Bush won four more years in the White House on Wednesday and pledged to "fight this war on terror with every resource of our national power." John Kerry conceded defeat rather than back an election challenge in make-or-break Ohio.
"I will need your support and I will work to earn it," the president said in an appeal to the 55 million Americans who voted for his Democratic rival at the end of their long campaign.
The president spoke before thousands of cheering supporters less than an hour after his vanquished rival conceded defeat. "We cannot win this election," the Massachusetts senator said in an emotional campaign farewell in Boston.
In an appearance in Faneuil Hall in Boston, where he launched his quest for the White House more than a year ago, Kerry said he had telephoned Bush to congratulate him on his victory.
"We talked about the danger of division in our country and the need -- the desperate need -- for unity, for finding common ground and coming together," Kerry said. "Today, I hope we can begin the healing," he said.
Bush was to make his victory speech in Washington after Kerry concluded.
Kerry's twin concessions, one private, the other played out before supporters and a nationwide television audience, followed his decision not to contest Bush's lead in make-or-break Ohio.
The re-election triumph gave Bush a new term to pursue the war in Iraq and a conservative, tax-cutting agenda -- and probably the chance to name one or more justices to an aging Supreme Court.
He also will preside alongside expanded Republican majorities in Congress. The GOP gained four Senate seats and led for a fifth. The party bolstered its majority in the House by at least two.
Ohio's 20 electoral votes gave Bush 274 in the Associated Press count, four more than the 270 needed for victory. Kerry had 252 electoral votes, with Iowa (7) and New Mexico (5) unsettled.
Bush was winning 51 percent of the popular vote to 48 percent for his rival. He led by more than 3 million ballots.
Officials in both camps described the telephone conversation between two campaign warriors.
A 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 official.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush told Kerry, "I think you were an admirable, honorable opponent."
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.
Kerry's call was the last bit of drama in a campaign full of it. While Bush remains in the White House, he returns to the Senate, part of the shrunken Democratic minority.
He acted, hours after White House chief of staff Andy Card declared Bush the winner and White House aides said the president was giving Kerry time to consider his next step.
One senior Democrat familiar with the discussions in Boston said Kerry's running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, was suggesting that he shouldn't concede.
The official said Edwards, a trial lawyer, wanted to make sure all options were explored and that Democrats pursued them as thoroughly as Republicans would if the positions were reversed.
Advisers said the campaign just wanted one last look for uncounted ballots that might close the 136,000-vote advantage Bush held in Ohio.
An Associated Press survey of the state's 88 counties found there were about 150,000 uncounted provisional ballots and an unspecified number of absentee votes still to be counted.
Ohio aside, New Mexico and Iowa remained too close to call in a race for the White House framed by a worldwide war against terror and economic worries at home.
But those two states were for the record -- Ohio alone had the electoral votes to swing the election to the man in the White House or his Democratic challenger.
Bush remained at the White House, while a GOP legal and political team was dispatched overnight to Ohio in case Kerry made a fight of it.
Republicans already were celebrating election gains in Congress. They picked up four seats in the Senate, and they drove Democratic leader Tom Daschle from office.
That will be the state of play on Capitol Hill for the next two years, with the chance of a Supreme Court nomination fight looming along with legislative battles.
Republicans also re-enforced their majority in the House.
Glitches galore cropped up in overwhelmed polling places as Americans voted in high numbers, fired up by unprecedented registration drives, the excruciatingly close contest and the sense that these were unusually consequential times.
"The mood of the voter in this election is different than any election I've ever seen," said Sangamon County, Ill., clerk Joseph Aiello. "There's more passion. They seem to be very emotional. They're asking lots of questions, double-checking things."
The country exposed its rifts on matters of great import in Tuesday's voting. Exit polls found the electorate split down the middle or very close to it on whether the nation is moving in the right direction, on what to do in Iraq, on whom they trust with their security.
The electoral map Wednesday looked much like it did before; the question mark had moved and little else.
Bush built a solid foundation by hanging on to almost all the battleground states he got last time. Facing the cruel arithmetic of attrition, Kerry needed to do more than go one state better than Al Gore four years ago; redistricting since then had left those 2000 Democratic prizes 10 electoral votes short of the total needed to win the presidency.
Florida fell to Bush again, close but no argument about it.
Bush's relentless effort to wrest Pennsylvania from the Democratic column fell short. He had visited the state 44 times, more than any other. Kerry picked up New Hampshire in perhaps the election's only turnover.
In Ohio, Kerry won among young adults, but lost in every other age group. One-fourth of Ohio voters identified themselves as born-again Christians and they backed Bush by a 3-to-1 margin.
A sideline issue in the national presidential campaign, gay civil unions, may have been a sleeper that hurt Kerry -- who strongly supports that right -- in Ohio and elsewhere. Ohioans expanded their law banning gay marriage, already considered the toughest in the country, with an even broader constitutional amendment against civil unions.
In all, voters in 11 states approved constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
In Florida, Kerry again won only among voters under age 30. Six in 10 voters said Florida's economy was in good shape, and they voted heavily for Bush. Voters also gave the edge to Bush's handling of terrorism.
In Senate contests, Rep. John Thune's victory over Daschle represented the first defeat of a Senate party leader in a re-election race in more than a half century.