In the end, America's presidential election closed with a familiar-sounding result that prompted a weary and anxious groan: a cliff-hanger, with George Bush winning after a technical wrangle in a heavily contested state. But that is misleading. Do not underestimate the scope of the Republicans' victory-or its importance for both America and the world.
In one way, the victory was a narrow one. The president carried Ohio by just 136,000 votes (or around 2% of the votes cast there). John Kerry reluctantly conceded defeat only when he calculated that there were not enough uncounted ballots to provide him with the votes he needed. That retreat looks a wise decision for America's sake-particularly seeing that this time Mr Bush won the national popular vote by 3.5m.
As that figure implies, it was a stunning result for Mr Bush-and not just because exit polls had indicated that Mr Kerry would win. The president won a clear majority of the vote (the first time anyone has done that since his own father in 1988, albeit thanks to the lack of any serious third-party candidate). The huge turnout that Democrats had yearned for ended up proving instead the power of conservative America.
Mr Bush also has a much firmer base in Congress. The Republicans added at least four more seats to their comfortable majority in the House of Representatives. Crucially, they made a net gain of four Senate seats, giving them in effect a 55-45 advantage in the upper chamber. Add in the occasional support of some conservative Democrats, and Mr Bush is close to the 60 votes necessary to survive a delaying filibuster procedure-a huge achievement and advantage.
So the "accidental president", who reached the White House last time only with the help of those dimpled chads and the Supreme Court, has a real electoral mandate at last. He deserves congratulations for winning such a vote even in the face of a costly war and a patchy economy. The question is what he will do with his victory; and also how the rest of the world, which had been praying for a Kerry victory over the uncomfortably muscular Texan, will react.
After all, Mr Bush has in a sense been here before. In the months after September 11th, he had the support of 90% of a broadly united country (not just 51% of a bitterly polarised one). America also had the backing of most of the world. That was before the war in Iraq; before Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and Fallujah became household names; before the compassionate conservative lurched to the right on stem-cell research and gay marriage; before the budget deficit lurched out of control. Mr Bush's supporters will argue that he is hardly responsible for all these things. But arguing over who did what in the past is beside the point. The question is how to do things better in the future.
Mr Bush would do well to focus now on pragmatism over ideology. His aim must be not only his own place in history, but also America's: both will require more sensitivity and unity, and less shock and awe than in his first term. At home, one early test of his willingness to reunite his country will be whether he will appoint any Democrats to his new cabinet. Another awkwardness could well be the Supreme Court. The chief justice, William Rehnquist, is gravely ill. If Mr Bush allows the Christian right a veto over his appointments, he will re-ignite America's culture wars.
groan: an utterance expressing pain or disapproval（叹息，呻吟）
exit polls: a poll of voters as they leave the voting place; usually taken by news media in order to predict the outcome of an election（投票后民调，在选民投票后进行的票站调查）
filibuster: the use of obstructionist tactics, especially prolonged speechmaking, for the purpose of delaying legislative action（阻挠议事）
right a veto : 提出否决