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President Bush declares victory 'historic'
The Bush family arrives Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.
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America Votes 2004
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George W. Bush

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush called his victory over John Kerry "historic" Wednesday as he became the first Republican president to win re-election since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

"We had a long night and a great night," Bush told hundreds of cheering supporters as his wife and two daughters stood by his side at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center a few blocks from the White House.

Bush was introduced by Vice President Dick Cheney and greeted by audience shouts of "four more years."

"Earlier today, Senator Kerry called with his congratulations," Bush said. "We had a really good phone call. He was very gracious. Senator Kerry waged a spirited campaign, and he and his supporters can be proud of their efforts." (Bush: 'New term is a new opportunity')

Bush reached out "to every person who voted for my opponent."

"To make this nation stronger and better, I will need your support and I will work to earn it. I will do all I can do to deserve your trust," the president told Kerry supporters.

More than an hour before Kerry called the White House to concede, the stock market was already celebrating Bush's victory. Minutes after the 9:30 a.m. opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, the Dow Jones industrial average was up 152 points.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Bush's victory came at a "critical time" for the world.

"A world that is fractured, divided and uncertain must be brought together to fight this global terrorism in all its forms," Blair said.

Blair also said the United States and Europe must rebuild their alliance and urged renewed action toward settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Europe and America must build anew our alliance," Blair said. "All of us in positions of leadership, not just President Bush, have a responsibility to rise to this challenge. It's urgent that we do so."

He called on the allies to continue the war on terrorism not only by military means, but also by demonstrating "the strength of our common values" by fostering democracy and resolving long-festering conflicts that fuel terrorist recruitment.

"In particular, I have long argued that the need to revitalize the Middle East peace process is the single most pressing political challenge in our world today," Blair said.

"Therefore, we must be relentless in our war against terrorism and in resolving the conditions and causes on which the terrorists prey."

In his victory speech, Bush thanked his family -- including his father, former President George H.W. Bush, and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- and friends for their campaign support.

The nation, Bush said, has faced "great tasks" in the last four years and responded with courage.

Bush also vowed to continue working to "reform our outdated tax code" and strengthen "Social Security for the next generation."

"Our people have restored the vigor of this economy and shown resolve and patience in a new kind of war. Our military has brought justice to the enemy and honor to America," Bush said.

"I'm proud to lead such an amazing country, and I'm proud to lead it forward. Because we have done the hard work, we are entering a season of hope."

Despite Bush's appeal to Kerry supporters, Cheney said the popular vote victory gave Bush a mandate and the Bush White House would continue pushing for the Republicans' "clear agenda."

Bush received roughly 3.5 million more votes than Kerry did, thanks to strong backing from the GOP's conservative base as well as increased support from Latino, urban, Jewish, Catholic and female voters, according to exit polls.

Regular churchgoers, especially in the Midwest and South, turned out in disproportionate numbers to vote for the president, the exit polls indicated.

Bush thanked those supporters for their prayers on the rope lines during the campaign, and he indicated the direction of his own prayers.

"There is an old saying, Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks," the president said.

The president's top political adviser, Karl Rove, said Bush was re-elected with a popular vote majority because the American people "recognize him as a consequential president" who had tackled both major domestic and international issues in his first term.

Rove said he was encouraged by the early reaction from some congressional Democrats, and said he expects "a period early in the new year where people reach out and work together, and we certainly want to do that."

That cooperation may be tested by the new budget Bush will submit and possibly by the confirmation battle over the expected first Supreme Court nomination by the Bush White House.

Chief Justice William Rehnquist has been unable so far to return to the bench after undergoing surgery for thyroid cancer and facing both radiation and chemotherapy.

For the weeks ahead, Bush will be preparing for the upcoming annual Asian-Pacific economic summit in little more than two weeks, and his State of the Union address in January.

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