WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Bush crept close to re-election early Wednesday, leading challenger John Kerry in a campaign cliffhanger framed by war in Iraq and joblessness at home. Ohio held the key, stirring echoes of Florida in 2000, but this time Bush's advantage was substantial.

With a majority of the popular vote in hand, the Republican president planned to declare victory early Wednesday. ``We are convinced that President Bush has won re-election,'' White House chief of staff Andrew Card said shortly before dawn in the East.

Ceding nothing, Kerry went to bed without conceding. ``We will fight for every vote,'' his running mate, Sen. John Edwards, told supporters in Boston, where he and the four-term Massachusetts senator waited out the late, long count.

Card said Bush not only won a second term but Republicans added ``to our majority in the House and ... to our majority in the Senate.''