BOSTON (AP) – John Kerry’s bid for the White House ended in disappointment Wednesday morning as the Massachusetts senator called President Bush to concede after a long night of tense vote counting in Ohio and elsewhere.

With the Republican president holding fast to a six-figure lead in make-or-break Ohio, Kerry huddled with aides at his Boston brownstone. One senior Democrat familiar with the discussions said Kerry’s running mate, North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, urged him to explore all legal options before conceding.

But Kerry ended his quest with a call to the president shortly after 11 a.m., according to two officials familiar with the conversation.

Thousands of Kerry supporters had gathered in Boston’s Copley Square Tuesday night for what was supposed to have been a victory rally. But the crowd dispersed without ever hearing from their candidate, as Kerry’s prospects appeared increasingly slim.

The candidate stayed inside his Beacon Hill home while his supporters stood in the rain and chill watching results trickle in, only to see yet another presidential cliffhanger unfold.

It was anything but a nail-biter in Kerry’s home state, where he posted 62 percent to President Bush’s 37 percent. But the results nationally were a different story.

Supporters got their first word from the campaign at 2:30 a.m. when North Carolina Sen. John Edwards – Kerry’s running mate – emerged on a stage set up in Copley Square to say that the campaign wasn’t ready to concede defeat or declare victory.

His 78-word statement was an eerie echo of 2000 when advisers to both Bush and Democrat Al Gore told supporters that the race was too close to call – setting off a 36-day recount.

Bush won Florida this time without a re-count. Kerry took New Hampshire from Bush, who won it in 2000, but the state has just four electoral votes. That left Ohio and its 20 electoral votes as Kerry’s only hope, and as the morning wore on the Democrat’s chances there appeared increasingly bleak.

Outside Kerry’s home on Louisburg Square in the city’s historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, a group of about 20 onlookers, at least one wearing a Kerry campaign button, quietly watched as police officers and Secret Service agents kept guard outside the home. Sidewalks and streets on the tree-lined square were blocked off by traffic barricades, though residents were allowed in.

The senator was expected to make a public concession speech a 1 p.m. news conference at Faneuil Hall.

After a marathon campaign, Kerry came home to Massachusetts on Tuesday to be near the voters that have sent him to Washington for four Senate terms. He voted at the Statehouse, then went to the Union Oyster House for his traditional Election Day seafood lunch.

He spent the evening at his Beacon Hill home, while supporters gathered in Copley Square. In the first few hours, they danced and cheered, hoping that the rest of the country would follow Massachusetts’ lead and turn their rally into a celebration.

But as the night wore on and states key to a presidential victory began to fall into Bush’s column, the crowd grew more subdued as the results were flashed on giant television screens on either side of the stage.

When the TV screens flashed news late in the evening that Ohio was going to Bush, the crowd moaned and many people began leaving.

When Kerry, 61, first announced he was running for president, he faced a crowded field of fellow Democrats. But he emerged as the front-runner after staging a stunning comeback in the Iowa caucus – and was secured of the nomination well before the Democratic National Convention was held in his hometown in July.

Kerry’s political career began 1972, when he lost a congressional bid after making a name for himself as a Vietnam veteran opposed to the war. Ten years later, after serving as assistant prosecutor for Middlesex County, he won the election for lieutenant governor, and served under Gov. Michael Dukakis.

He surprised Democratic insiders in 1984 when he sought the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Paul Tsongas. He defeated an establishment favorite and won the general election. He’s now in his fourth term in the Senate.

Kerry’s toughest challenge was in 1996, when he narrowly defeated popular Republican Gov. William Weld. Observers say it was a turning point in his career because he earned the grudging respect of his party in a nationally watched race.


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