US President George W Bush telephoned his apparent successor, Democrat Barack Obama, to congratulate him on his “awesome night,” according to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
“Mr President-elect, congratulations to you. What an awesome night for you, your family and your supporters. Laura and I called to congratulate you and your good bride,” she quoted Bush as telling Obama.
“I promise to make this a smooth transition. You are about to go on one of the great journeys of life. Congratulations and go enjoy yourself,” Bush told Obama late on Tuesday night, she said.
The President also invited Obama and his family “to visit the White House soon, at their convenience,” Perino said.
Bush was also to reach out to Obama’s defeated rival, Republican John McCain, who conceded the fight shortly after 11:00 pm (0930 IST).
TERM OVER: Bush at a graduation ceremony for FBI Agents in Quantico, Va.
Even before one vote was counted, this result was clear: The US presidential race was a verdict on George W Bush.
Both Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain positioned themselves as agents of change—that is, change from Bush.
The US President’s approval ratings have hovered near historically low levels—it was just 26 percent in an AP-GfK poll conducted a couple of weeks before Election Day—and he was a factor in voters’ decision-making no matter how much he tried to keep out of the race.
Obama seized on Bush’s standing to make him a political liability for McCain, who in turn separated himself aggressively from the face of his own party as the campaign closed.
The President’s face has been such a fixture in anti-McCain ads that it was up to Laura Bush to add a touch of lightness to her husband’s woes.
“I’m really looking forward to Election Day,” she said at a Republican campaign event in Kentucky on Monday, “partly because it seems like George has been on the ticket this entire year.”
The quietest place in Washington on Tuesday may have been the White House itself.
The President voted absentee several days ago, so there was no video of him at his precinct, no statements to reporters, no public appearance whatsoever.
Bush planned to spend his evening in the White House residence, watching TV coverage of election results and hosting a small dinner with his wife, Laura.
There was sure to be at least some celebrating—Tuesday is the first lady’s birthday. Otherwise, it was a day when the White House purposely went dark.
“He realises this election is not about him,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said heading into voting day.
Tuesday marked the first time in 14 years—a period when Bush twice won the Texas governorship and the presidency—that he was not on the ballot.
Many pundits had no doubt about Tuesday’s outcome. Among them: Karl Rove, once of Bush’s closest aides and the architect of his two successful presidential runs. On election eve, Rove distributed his last analysis of the electoral map. It predicted Obama winning easily, with 338 electoral votes. It takes 270 to win.
The title of Rove’s e-mail: “The End.” He was referring to the election, but there was also a feeling of finality at the White House.
Outside, the post-Bush transition was starting. Construction workers churned away on Inauguration Day grandstands along Pennsylvania Avenue.
With 67 per cent Americans not wishing to see another debate between Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain, both the White House hopefuls have hit the stretch in the battleground and critical states hoping to put behind “Joe The Plumber” and “Joe The Six Pack”.
The polls of the last few days may have shown Senator Obama in the lead of at least eight points; but the latest CNN Gallup showed the race was really tightening and even close to about a two-point spread between the candidates in favour of the Illinois Democrat.
At the heart of the candidates’ struggle is the political mid-west like Ohio and Pennsylvania that the candidates have started hitting very intently; but some of the focus is also on states like New Hampshire that Senator Obama slipped in the primaries to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“Three debates, and over 20 months, John McCain still has not explained a single thing he would do differently from George W Bush when it comes to the most important economic issues we face today. Not one. Here’s the truth, New Hampshire, John McCain voted with George Bush 90 per cent of the time. That has not change. It is more of the same,” Obama said in New Hampshire.
“He wants to keep giving tax cuts to corporations that ship our jobs overseas. I want to give tax breaks to companies that create jobs right here in the US. He wants to give more tax cuts to CEOs. I want to give 95 per cent of working families the tax relief that they deserve. He wants to double down on health care policies that will only work for the healthy and the wealthy. I want to cut costs and expand coverage for all Americans,” Obama said in a rhetoric that is all too well known on the political trail.
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