Overjoyed Democrats and somber Republicans are striking a conciliatory tone, stressing the need to move beyond a bitter election that saw Democrats take control of the US Congress for the first time in 12 years.
The concession on Thursday by Republican Senator George Allen of Virginia put to rest the final question regarding the outcome of the elections, in which Democrats toppled Republicans at all levels of government.
The "owners of government have spoken and I respect their decision," Allen said on Thursday, conceding defeat to Democrat Jim Webb in a race whose resolution gave Democrats the 51st seat they needed to wrest control of the 100-seat Senate from US President George W. Bush's Republicans.
"The Bible teaches us there is a time and place for everything, and today I called and congratulated Jim Webb and his team for their victory," Allen said.
The race was decided by a margin of about 7,200 votes out of 2.37 million cast and, under Virginia law, Allen could have demanded a recount. He said he would not.
Bush met with the incoming House of Representatives speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi, on Thursday over lunch. They pledged cooperation where possible.
Bush saluted Pelosi, a California Democrat, for both her party's victory in the election and for becoming the first woman who will take the position in the House that places her second in line in the succession for the presidency.
"The elections are now behind us, and the congresswoman's party won," said Bush, who was accompanied by a stony-faced Vice President Dick Cheney. "But the challenges still remain. And therefore, we're going to work together to address those challenges in a constructive way."
Pelosi echoed the sentiment, saying that "We both extended the hand of friendship, of partnership to solve the problems facing our country."
"We have our differences and we will debate them ... but we will do so in a way that gets results," she added.
For Bush, already embattled because of plummeting support for the Iraq war -- a factor that many said played a significant role in the Republicans' defeat -- a Democratic Congress will probably prove to be a daunting challenge in achieving any of his policy objectives ahead of the 2008 presidential elections.
Already, the political casualties were mounting.
One day after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld resigned, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee rebuffed the White House's resubmission of John Bolton as ambassador to the UN.
Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee, who has stood firm against Bolton's nomination and who was defeated by a Democrat on Tuesday, told reporters his position had not changed.
"The American people have spoken out against the president's agenda on a number of fronts, and presumably one of those is on foreign policy," said Chafee, who also said he is considering joining the Democrats. "And at this late stage in my term, I'm not going to endorse something the American people have spoke out against."