Beaten McCain Appeals for Unity as Party Faithful Boo the Victor; Gracious in Defeat: A Dejected John McCain and His Wife Cindy Take the Stage in Phoenix This Morning to Admit Defeat in Front of a Bitter Republican Audience

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Byline: EDWARD HELMORE

JOHN McCAIN offered a gracious concession as he admitted his White House dream was finally over today but had to stop his supporters booing Barack Obama's name.

The 72-year-old Republican candidate offered no trace of bitterness as he addressed thousands of backers in his home town after making a call to Mr Obama handing him victory.

But the depths of difficulty his party faces were underlined by the reaction of a crowd hostile to his message of uniting behind the president. Mr McCain, with his wife Cindy, running mate Sarah Palin and her husband Todd, took the stage to admit defeat soon after the polls closed in California.

"We fought as hard as we could, and though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours," Mr McCain said. "The road was a difficult one from the outset. Every campaign makes mistakes but I won't spend a moment of the future regretting what might have been." Mr McCain took pains to recognise Mr Obama's victory and its astonishing symbolism of a black president just 40 years after the end of the civil rights movement.

He said: "This is an historic election, and I recognise the special significance it has for African-Americans and for the special pride that must be theirs tonight." He insisted America today was "a world away from the cruel and spiteful bigotry" of a century ago.

"There is no better evidence of this than the election of an African-American to the presidency of the United States," he said.

Offering his condolences to Mr Obama for the death on Sunday of his grandmother, Mr McCain said he regretted that she had not lived to see her grandson achieve such "a great thing for himself and his country". …