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.
HISTORY MADE: Democrat Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States.
Democrat Barack Obama wrote his name indelibly into the pages of American history on Wednesday, engineering a social and political upheaval to become the country’s first black president-elect in a runaway victory over Republican John McCain.
The 72-year-old Arizona senator quickly called his opponent to concede defeat and congratulate his rival in the longest and most costly presidential campaign in American history.
The 47-year-old Illinois senator, son of a white mother from Kansas and an African father from Kenya, mined a deep vein of national discontent, promising Americans hope and change throughout a nearly flawless 21-month campaign for the White House.
Obama stepped through a door opened 145 years ago when Abraham Lincoln, a fellow Illinois politician, issued the Emancipation Proclamation that freed African-Americans from enslavement in the rebellious South in the midst of a wrenching civil war.
The powerful orator lays claim to the White House on Jan. 20, only 43 years after the country enacted a law that banned the disenfranchisement of blacks in many Southern states where poll taxes and literacy tests were common at the time.
With victories in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other battleground states, Obama built a commanding lead over McCain after surging in the polls in the midst of a national financial crisis. He and his fellow Democrats sought to link McCain to the unpopular George W. Bush.
Obama soared into the national spotlight with his electrifying speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, when he was making his first run for the Senate and polishing his message of unity in a country that was mired in partisan anger.
Democrats also were expanding their majorities in both chambers of Congress.
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