Donald Trump, defying the pundits and polls to the end, was projected to defeat Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s presidential election and claim an establishment-stunning victory that exposes the depth of voter dissatisfaction – and signals immense changes ahead for American policy at home and abroad.
Seventeen months after the billionaire tycoon’s Trump Tower entrance into the race, the first-time candidate once dismissed by the political elite will become the 45th president, Fox News projects.
Speaking to cheering supporters early Wednesday morning at his victory party in New York City, the Republican candidate and now president-elect said Clinton called to congratulate them, and Fox News confirms she has conceded. Despite their hard-fought campaign, Trump praised Clinton for her service and said “it is time for us to come together as one united people.”
“I will be president for all Americans,” Trump vowed.
Sounding a call to “reclaim our country’s destiny,” Trump declared: “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. … America will no longer settle for anything less than the best.”
Trump will be the oldest president in U.S. history, entering the Oval Office at age 70. With her defeat, Clinton falls short in her second bid to become the first female president of the United States.
Though Clinton apparently called Trump, her campaign initially did not concede defeat. Earlier, her campaign chairman John Podesta addressed supporters nearby in New York and said several states were “too close to call.”
Clinton herself did not appear at the rally. Podesta had urged supporters to “head home” and said they would not have “anything more to say tonight.”
Amid Trump’s victory, Republicans also held onto their majority in the House and were close to doing so in the Senate, improving Trump’s chances of advancing his agenda in office.
A surge of support in key battlegrounds – and especially surprise victories in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – helped propel Trump to victory. The GOP nominee built a commanding lead early on with wins in heavily contested North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Iowa.
Clinton won her share of battlegrounds, including Virginia and Nevada and Colorado, but could not make up for Trump’s strong performance in other states thought to favor the Democrat.
The billionaire businessman’s victory marked a remarkable upset and turnaround, after he had been complaining amid a rough patch just weeks ago the vote could be “rigged” against him.
Clinton was still thought to have the clear advantage in the electoral map going into Tuesday’s vote, yet the polls had been tightening in the race’s closing days.
His victory could demonstrate just how much the dynamics were shifting in his favor – and perhaps how his true support was elusive all along to pollsters and others gauging the race.
Without question, his bid was helped over the last two weeks by a burst of setbacks for his opponent.
Eleven days before the election, FBI Director James Comey announced the bureau was revisiting the investigation into Clinton’s personal email server use while secretary of state, after discovering new messages on the laptop of disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide. He closed the case again on Sunday, but the political damage may have been done — Trump used the brief probe to revive the email controversy in the final days. And the WikiLeaks release of emails hacked from Podesta’s account became a constant distraction for the campaign, as the messages revealed infighting, internal ethical concerns about the Clinton family’s foundation and even evidence that the now-head of the Democratic National Committee leaked town hall questions to Clinton during the primaries.
This at times overshadowed the numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Trump that came out in October (which he denies), following leaked footage from over a decade ago showing Trump making crude comments about women.
Trump’s victory marks the second time Clinton was thwarted in her bid to become the first female U.S. president, having been defeated by President Obama in their 2008 primary race.
But Trump has been able to defy expectations from the start. He defeated a deep field of 16 competitors during the Republican primaries – stitching together a motivated coalition of voters invigorated by his outsider, populist message; throwing his rivals off their talking points during a raucous marathon of debates; and commanding media attention throughout with his unpredictable, learn-as-he-goes campaign style.
He also defied party orthodoxy, railing against free-trade deals like NAFTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership and staking out a sometimes-confusing set of positions on foreign policy that may yet evolve. Democrats have criticized him heavily for statements expressing admiration for Russia’s Vladimir Putin and a desire to rebuild ties with Moscow.
Trump was aided by the infrastructure of the GOP, but his campaign never came close to the juggernaut operation mounted by Clinton. While she entered the final stretch of the race with an army of high-powered surrogates, Trump’s campaign was driven namely by him, an inner circle of family members and a rotating set of top campaign advisers. Surrogates like retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani advocated aggressively for the Republican nominee, but he remained at odds with many influential elected Republicans who in some cases – as with House Speaker Paul Ryan – endorsed him, but only reluctantly. His stances on trade as well as his hardline immigration proposals – including variations on a plan to suspend Muslim immigration from certain countries – also made party brass uncomfortable.
The late emergence of a 2005 tape showing him making crude comments about women led some congressional Republicans to abandon him entirely. But even the biggest controversies seemed only to ding Trump, whose resilience in the polls could be credited to a movement of grassroots supporters who seemed to have little interest in the nominee’s tensions with the GOP establishment and saw him as the true change-maker in the election.