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Bush and Kerry trade early victories
Updated: 2004-11-03 08:14

US President Bush and challenger John Kerry traded early victories Tuesday in a tense and testy contest between an embattled wartime incumbent and a hard-charging Democrat who blamed the incumbent for chaos in Iraq and joblessness at home. The president claimed an early victory in West Virginia, but higher stakes battlegrounds loomed.

U.S. President George W. Bush speaks to the press under a banner reading "No phone number left behind," at the Ohio headquarters of the Bush-Cheney election campaign calling center in Columbus on election day November 2, 2004. [Reuters]
U.S. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry (R) and his wife Teresa Heinz-Kerry wave from the campaign plane after arriving in Bedford, Massachusetts, November 2, 2004. Kerry ended his election campaigning and returned to vote in today's 2004 presidential election against President George W. Bush. [Reuters]
Peter Baez, 84, and his wife Phyllis (R) of Great Falls, Virginia, leave after casting their ballots while others wait in line to vote in Great Falls, Virginia, November 2, 2004. [Reuters]
As the first polls closed, it was too close to predict in Ohio, perhaps the biggest linchpin in the drive to 270 electoral votes. Bush easily won in the GOP bastions of Georgia, Indiana and Kentucky while staving off Kerry's attempts to take the swing state of West Virginia.

Candidate Electoral States Won
Bush (R) 66 7
Kerry (D) 77 9

"I've given it my all," Bush said after voting at a Crawford, Texas, firehouse, hoping to avoid being the first president voted out of office at a time of war.

Kerry, a four-term Massachusetts senator, got teary-eyed as he thanked his staff for a campaign's worth of work. "We made the case for change," he said after voting at the Massachusetts Statehouse.

Alongside the first presidential election since the Sept. 11 attacks, control of Congress was at stake as Bush's fellow Republicans sought to extend their hold on the House and Senate. A full roster of propositions and local offices filled ballots nationwide.

US President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry are shown in photos made during the campaign in October. [AP]
They were torn over the presidential race, in ways all too familiar.

Exit polls suggested that slightly more voters trusted Bush to handle terrorism than Kerry. They were evenly split on whether they approved of the war in Iraq, with those backing the conflict heavily supporting Bush and those opposed strongly behind Kerry.

Interviews with voters as they left the polls suggested that most believed the country was headed in the wrong direction. Those wrong-track voters overwhelmingly backed Kerry.

One in 10 voters were casting ballots for the first time and fewer than 10 percent were young voters, hardly the groundswell that experts had predicted. Kerry was favored by both groups, according to the surveys conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International.

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