WASHINGTON (AP) â€” President Clinton reflected on the uncertain outcome of the presidential election Wednesday. ``The American people have spoken,'' he said, ``but it's going to take a little while to determine what they said.''
Clinton said he called both Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush to congratulate them on a hard-fought campaign.
The election hung on results in Florida, where 25 electoral votes were at stake. Fewer than 1,800 votes separated the two men at last count, with Bush having the edge.
``If ever there was a doubt about the importance of exercising democracy's most fundamental right â€” the right to vote â€” yesterday put it to rest,'' the president said. ``No American will ever be able to seriously say again, `My vote doesn't count.'''
Clinton said Gore, in their phone chat, had been in good humor despite the election's uncertainty. ``We talked about the unpredictability of life and how he'd done everything he could,'' Clinton said. He said Gore was pleased he was ahead in the popular vote across the nation, even though the outcome will be determined by electoral votes.
Clinton said he had not advised Gore to retract his concession, as the vice president did when television networks reversed themselves after calling the race for Bush.
The president spoke at the White House on his return from New York, where he celebrated his wife's election to the Senate. She will fill the seat being vacated by Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
The president walked to the microphone hand in hand with his daughter, Chelsea.
Hillary Rodham Clinton's victory speech
After a suspenseful night, the president was up early Wednesday in New York, making congratulatory calls to Democrats around the country. He basked in his wife's triumph.
``I'm just elated. I'm so proud of her,'' the president told reporters as he followed behind his wife, shaking hands at her victory celebration. ``I'm so happy. I'm so grateful. I don't know what else to say.''
Clinton received word of Mrs. Clinton's victory while doing a get-out-the-vote phone interview with a Las Vegas radio personality. He said he was proud to be the first president ever to have a senator wife. ``I like it,'' the president said, according to White House spokesman Jake Siewert.
``He's looking forward to being a member of the Senate spouse's club,'' said former Clinton aide Paul Begala. ``I don't think he's wistful. He's the most resilient and adaptable person I've known. I don't think he's relishing the end (of his presidency), but he's adapted admirably.''
Wednesday, while his wife was making her entree into New York's political sphere, Clinton was collecting his entourage to return to Washington and a series of briefings on his pending meetings with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.
Clinton did not go without some praise Tuesday. He stepped forward and gave a slight nod as New York's soon-to-be senior Democratic senator, Charles Schumer, introduced him as ``the man we owe so much to, our great president.''
``I told Hillary when she started this campaign, if you all were together, if you were all working hard, if you all cared enough, she would win,'' Clinton told a group of union supporters who gathered in the hotel's cigar bar. ``You did your part. She did hers. I am proud and I am grateful. Go get 'em.''
His wife's victory secure, the president busied himself by focusing on the ultra-tight presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, the vice president who studiously avoided letting Clinton get out on the campaign trail.
While the first lady â€” who had liberally put her husband to work â€” accepted the concession call from her Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio, in their hotel suite, Clinton stepped into an adjacent room, set up as a mini ``War Room'' to monitor election returns.
He talked with Gore once Tuesday, about midday, and planned to talk to him once more as the race tightened and wore on into the wee hours Wednesday.
Some of Clinton's own credibility was at stake in Gore's fate. About seven in 10 Bush voters who were interviewed by Voter News Service, a consortium of The Associated Press and the television networks, said the scandals that raked Clinton's presidency were important, and about one-third of Bush voters said one reason for their vote was to oppose Clinton.
The president dabbed at his eyes several times during the first lady's acceptance speech. He grasped Chelsea's hand with interlocking fingers as Mrs. Clinton said, ``I know I would not be here without my family.''
It was Mrs. Clinton's only mention of her husband.