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MARKETPLACE:  Auto | Jobs | People Search | Personals | Travel | Yellow Pages  December 27, 2004
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Bush philosophical at end of last campaign: worked �as hard as we possibly could�
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WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush was all smiles but no swagger as he finished the campaign he said would be his last, a marathon that seemed a sure thing after the Sept. 11 attacks but ended up a likely photo finish.

He voted one last time for himself in his tiny Central Texas hometown of Crawford, made a quick stop in Ohio to pump up get-out-the-vote troops and was welcomed back to the White House by hundreds of flag-waving, cheering staffers�and his dog.

Tuesday night, alongside family and top aides in the White House residence, the 43rd president monitored the voters� verdict on whether he would get a second term, a plum coveted all the more as it was denied his father, the 41st.

�We campaigned as hard as we possibly could,� Bush said at his campaign headquarters in Columbus.

Indeed he did. Ohio, for example, one of several make-or-break states, received presidential visits 33 times during Bush�s term.  On Tuesday�s final pre-election stop, the Bush got on the phone himself to persuade voters to go to the polls. �I promise you, it�s me,� he said to a doubting supporter on the other end of the line. �One to nothing,� he quipped to reporters after he hung up.

His voice was a little croaky after weeks of frantic campaigning, capped by seven speeches on Monday�s 19-hour odyssey.

One of the first decisions of the campaign, back at the start, was to wage it largely around the argument that the nation would be unwise to change Oval Office occupants in the time of uncertainty after the terror attacks. Before Bush�s campaign even filed his official re-election paperwork last May, he was airing ads casting Democratic Sen. John Kerry as waffling and weak on defense.

Bush traveled incessantly throughout his presidency to battleground states, marshaling the powers and perks of incumbency to tout his tax-cutting, terror-fighting record as president and give himself as much of a re-election boost as possible.

But bad news rarely seemed far away, with casualties mounting in Iraq, questions lingering about his main reasons for war, gasoline prices soaring and job growth reviving more slowly than most would like. A lackluster performance in the first of three debates with Kerry slowed momentum that had been built at the Republican convention.

By Election Day, the race promised a nail-biter finish, despite Bush�s sky-high standing with voters after the 2001 terrorist attacks. From job approval ratings that lingered in the 80 percent range for months, Bush ended the campaign with the number around 50.

On Tuesday, after all the nonstop negativity from both sides, Bush had gracious words for his opponent. �I wish him all the best,� Bush said. �We�ve given it our all and I�m sure he is happy, like I am, that the campaign has come to a conclusion.�

Whatever the result, he said he hoped Tuesday would be decisive.  ï¿½There would be nothing better for our system (than) for the election to be conclusively over,� he said. �The world watches our great democracy function.�

Bush�s vice president, Dick Cheney, voted near his home in Wyoming and headed back to Washington, too�with a stop in Wisconsin to declare one last time that the election was �more important than any in my lifetime.�

After he voted, he said, �When you start a day like this in Jackson Hole, it�s going to be a good day.�


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