Washington, Nov. 3: George W. Bush has convincingly won the US presidential election by an impressive margin of more than 3.5 million popular votes.
A cloud over his victory and doubts about his majority in the electoral college, which chooses the President, lifted around noon today when his Democratic challenger John Kerry phoned to concede defeat in the election.
'Congratulations, Mr. President,' Kerry said in a phone call put through to the White House which lasted no more than five minutes, according to sources in the Kerry campaign.
In his second term, Bush may rule as one of the most powerful Presidents in American history. He returns to office with simultaneous control of both Houses of the US Congress.
Republicans, who often had to rely on vice-president Dick Cheney's casting vote in the outgoing Senate to push their agenda, increased their strength to 54 in the 100-member chamber.
In the new House of Representatives, Republicans are expected to have 233 members, 15 more than a simple majority.
Bush will also leave an imprint on the judiciary. Chief justice William Rehnquist of the US Supreme Court is seriously ill with cancer and three other vacancies on the bench are expected soon.
Bush is expected to fill those vacancies with justices who hold conservative views on issues such as abortion, homosexuality and religion.
Supreme Court justices in the US have no retirement age and vacancies occur only when they step down, die or are seriously indisposed.
Despite his impressive majority of popular votes, the re-election of Bush was a cliffhanger and for nearly 12 hours after vote-counting was virtually over, the President was not assured of victory.
Even after Kerry conceded defeat, Bush is 12 votes short of a majority in the electoral college which formally elects the President.
As of now, Bush has 254 votes in the electoral college while Kerry has 252. A simple majority of 270 is needed for him to retain the White House.
The final outcome of the year-long presidential campaign was delayed because of uncertainty over results from Ohio, which has 20 seats in the electoral college.
At the end of counting in the early hours of this morning, Bush has a majority of 136,221 votes in Ohio. But about 250,000 provisional votes remain to be counted in the state.
Nobody actually knows the exact figure of provisional votes and absentee ballots. These are scattered across Ohio's counties and an effort is now under way to tally the exact number of such votes all over the state.
The provisional ballots and absentee votes will be counted, as per Ohio's election law, only after 10 days.
Although Kerry has conceded defeat, the final result may yet be overturned if Kerry's showing in provisional voting is enough to change the tentative voting figure in Ohio in his favour.
Before he is sworn in on January 20, 2005, Bush will need Ohio's 20 electoral votes in order to be the next President.
Since early morning today, Kerry was under pressure within the Democratic Party to concede defeat because Bush had won a decisive popular mandate.
Kerry's campaign advisers were huddled this morning in his home town of Boston to decide whether to fight the outcome of the election till the bitter end or even go to court like Al Gore, the Democratic candidate, did four years ago.
The Bush camp also weighed its options. The President was under pressure to come out and declare victory in view of his majority of both popular votes nationwide and counted votes in Ohio.
Meanwhile, Indian American Bobby Jindal has become the second Indian American in history to be elected to the US Congress.
He trounced his opponents securing 78 per cent of the votes and will be the only American of Indian origin in the new House of Representatives.
None of Jindal's five opponents in Louisiana's first Congressional district even managed to get a double digit percentage of votes.
In Iowa, Swati Dandekar, 53, was re-elected to the state assembly with a 10 per cent margin of votes and Namrata (Nikki) Randhawa Haley, 32, unanimously won a seat in the South Carolina assembly.
Apart from Kerry's inability to capture the White House, Democrats suffered a serious reverse when their leader in the Senate, Tom Daschle, was defeated in his home state of South Dakota.
The defeat ends his long career as a Senator since 1986 and an earlier eight years as a member of the House of Representatives.
Dick Gephardt, leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, is not seeking re-election after being in the House for 28 years.
The new Senate will have one black member, Barack Obama of Illinois, who is talked about as America's first possible black President.