Washington, Nov 5: A low-profile President George W Bush watched the election results from his White House residence, while hosting a birthday party for his wife, Laura.
Even before one vote was counted, this result was clear: The presidential race was a verdict on the two-term President as much as candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. "May God bless whoever wins tonight," the president, who is suffering low approval ratings, told friends and advisers by his side. Both Obama and McCain positioned themselves as agents of change -- that is, change from Bush.
The President's approval ratings have hovered near historically low levels -- it was just 27 percent in a FOX News poll conducted on Monday -- and he was a factor in voters' decision-making no matter how much he tried to stay out of the race.
In preliminary results from an Associated Press exit poll of voters on Tuesday, Bush and the Democratic-run Congress got low marks from voters. Only about one in four approved of how Bush is handling his job, and Congress got about the same.
The President voted in absentee several days ago, so there was no video of him at his precinct, no statements to reporters, no public appearance whatsoever.
Bush spent the early part of his evening in the White House residence, hosting a small dinner in the Old Family Dining Room. Several close friends and members of Bush's senior staff were invited. Bush thanked his guests for their friendship and their work.
"The President believes tonight is a night to appreciate the strength of our country and our democracy," said White House spokesperson Perino.
A celebration did occur for Bush and his guests as they celebrated the first lady's 62nd birthday. The president gave her earrings.
Tuesday marked the first time in 14 years -- a period when Bush twice won the Texas governorship and the presidency -- that he was not on the ballot.