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2004: George W Bush wins second term
George W Bush has won a second term as president of the United States, beating his Democratic rival, John Kerry, by a comfortable margin.

Mr Bush won about 51% of the vote and at least 274 electoral college votes against John Kerry's 48% and 252 votes.

Results are still awaited in New Mexico and Iowa but they cannot affect the outcome.

Mr Bush's victory was announced after Mr Kerry phoned him at the White House to admit defeat.

In a four-minute conversation, Mr Kerry congratulated the president, while Mr Bush called the Democrat "an admirable, worthy opponent".

Strong mandate

In his victory speech, Mr Bush said, "I am proud to lead such an amazing country and I am proud to lead it forward."

He said tax reform, social security and education would be priorities for his second four-year term.

He also said the US would "help the emerging democracies of Afghanistan and Iraq to grow in strength and freedom".

The result means Mr Bush has a stronger mandate than four years ago, when he won only after a 36-day legal battle over a recount in Florida.

Florida has used electronic voting machines this year to replace the punch cards which created so many problems in the last poll.

The media has also been noticeably more cautious in their reporting of results across the country, with CBS presenter Dan Rather saying at one stage, "I would rather be last than wrong."

Close contest

The contest was again extremely close throughout, with both men neck-and-neck in opinion polls right until voting ended.

After early victories by Mr Kerry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Mr Bush began winning state after state.

The key state of Ohio declared for the president early this morning.

National security and the war in Iraq have dominated the campaign, with the economy largely taking second place.

World leaders congratulated Mr Bush on his victory, although some warned of the major challenges facing him in the Middle East.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he looked forward to continuing his strong relationship with George Bush.

But, he added, "The need to revitalise the Middle East peace process is the single most pressing political challenge in our world today."

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George Bush and wife Laura
George W Bush won a decisive victory over his Democratic rival John Kerry

George W Bush urges Democrat voters to support his presidency

In Context
The final result was 286 electoral college votes to President Bush, while John Kerry won 252.

The early days of George Bush's second term in office were marked by several high-profile resignations.

Among them was the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, who resigned on 15 November.

His successor was the more hawkish Condoleezza Rice - the first black woman to serve in the office.

True to predictions of consolidation rather than reform, George Bush's second presidency has continued much as before, dominated by the war in Iraq and the fight against terrorism.

However, his term in office has been overshadowed by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans and the Gulf States in August 2005.

There was biting criticism after Mr Bush and his administration failed to react to the crisis, leaving tens of thousands of mainly poor black Americans living in appalling conditions without assistance for a week.

The president dropped to an all-time low in the opinion polls and was forced to accept personal responsibility for the handling of the disaster, in one of the worst setbacks of his presidential career.

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