The former Republican president said the incoming Democratic president “has won this opportunity to lead and unify our country.”
“I extended my warm congratulations and thanked him for the patriotic message he delivered last night,” Bush said in a statement, referring to his conversation with Biden. “I also called Kamala Harris to congratulate her on her historic election to the vice presidency.”
Bush’s congratulations come as many congressional Republicans have yet to publicly acknowledge Biden as the incoming president. News networks and The Associated Press called the race for Biden late Saturday morning after the Democrat was projected to win Pennsylvania, putting his campaign over the Electoral College threshold of 270 votes.
That means Biden will become the nation’s 46th president in January, while Harris will become the first woman, Black woman, and Asian American woman to serve as vice president.
Acknowledging that the former Republican president and incoming Democratic president “have political differences,” Bush said he knows Biden “to be a good man, who has won this opportunity to lead and unify our country.”
Bush said he also extended to Biden the same offer he gave to his successors, Barack Obama and Donald Trump: his prayers for success and a pledge to help in any way he could.
Trump has had a tense relationship with the Bush family. He branded former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida as “low energy” during the 2016 Republican presidential primary, blamed George W. Bush for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and mocked his father, former President George H.W. Bush, for his “thousand points of light” volunteerism program. George W. Bush didn’t support the president’s reelection.
Trump has refused to accept the results as legitimate. In a defiant statement on Saturday, the outgoing president accused Biden of “falsely” posing as the winner, warning that “this election is far from over.”
Trump’s team has sought to delegitimize Biden’s victory by falsely claiming that illegal ballots put Biden over the top in key battleground states that showed Trump winning on election night. The so-called red mirage appeared because Democrats overwhelmingly voted by mail, while Republicans were far more likely to vote in person on Election Day. The mail-in votes took longer to count.
In his statement, Bush congratulated Trump “on a hard-fought campaign.”
“He earned the votes of more than 70 million Americans — an extraordinary political achievement,” Bush said. “They have spoken, and their voices will continue to be heard through elected Republicans at every level of government.
The 43rd president also hailed the level of participation in the Nov. 3 election, casting turnout as “a positive sign of the health of our democracy” and highlighting that regardless of how Americans voted, their vote counted.
Bush conceded that Trump has the right to request recounts and mount legal challenges. However, “The American people can have confidence that this election was fundamentally fair, its integrity will be upheld, and its outcome is clear,” he said.
“The challenges that face our country will demand the best of President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris — and the best of us all,” Bush continued. “We must come together for the sake of our families and neighbors, and for our nation and its future. There is no problem that will not yield to the gathered will of free people.”
His closing message was for all Americans to join his family “in wishing our next President and Vice President well as they prepare to take up their important duties.”