Trump Triumphs — Becomes President-Elect
GOP nominee defeats Clinton in huge upset at the end of a historic and unprecedented campaign
His critics have called Donald Trump reckless, offensive, unprepared, a joke, a clown, a pawn of Vladimir Putin, inhuman, a fraud, a phony, a cheat, an abuser of women, and many more things.
Now they will be forced to call him something they never considered a possibility — president-elect.
“They’re still counting votes, and every vote should count. Several states are too close to call, so we’re not going to say more tonight.”
The Associated Press finally called Wisconsin for Trump at 2:31 a.m., pushing him over the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Vice President-Elect Mike Pence addressed jubilant supporters. “This is a historic night. The American people have spoken, and the American people have elected their new champion.”
Trump said Democrat Hillary Clinton called him moments before he took the stage to offer his victory speech in New York in the early hours of the morning Wednesday.
Trump, the man who has defied the odds and surprised the experts from the moment he rode an escalator at Trump Tower to announce his campaign for the presidency, did so one last time Tuesday.
Trump, the ultimate outsider, will be unique among America’s 45 presidents — the only one never to serve a day in elected or appointed government office or in the military.
Trump will put to bed the confident assertions of Democratic operatives that their superiority of big data and mastery of get-out-the-vote efforts would deliver a comfortable victory for the former secretary of state. Those assumptions were bolstered by a steady and consistent lead in most polls and a last-minute announcement by FBI Director James Comey that he was again closing a criminal probe into her email use as America’s top diplomat.
Whither the #NeverTrump Movement
The results also make clear the vocal #NeverTrump movement of prominent Republican intellectuals and politicians had little popular support among the rank and file. Exit polls suggested he won nine of 10 ballots cast by Republican voters. Although many regular Republicans have expressed reservations about Trump — and polls judged him a deeply unpopular figure among the electorate at large — he ran up against an opponent who also is widely reviled.
Trump chose to run at a time when the country is deeply anxious about an economy that never managed to grow faster than a 2-percent clip since coming out of the Great Recession. Roughly 60 percent of Americans have told pollsters they believe the country is on the wrong track. Add to that the normal yearning for change after a two-term president and Americans’ suspicion of dynastic politicians, and Trump maybe should not have been considered such an underdog.
And if that were not enough, WikiLeaks pelted Clinton on a daily basis for more than a month with embarrassing revelations about the inner workings of her campaign. The anti-secrecy group obtained those emails from a source that hacked the Gmail account of her campaign chairman, John Podesta.
Despite that, nearly every pollster, expert, and normally accurate prediction market forecast a Clinton victory — just as most experts calmly predicted that Trump’s early polling lead over a crowded Republican primary field would prove a flash in the pan. Even on Election Day itself, CNN quoted an unnamed Trump adviser saying that it would take a “miracle” for Trump to prevail.
Trump won despite entering the race with zero political experience and getting massively outspent. The victory validates Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who decided to invest early in a turnout operation that took the lead in corralling voters. Despite drawing skepticism from observers, RNC officials insisted for a week that they were poised to deliver a victory to Trump, pointing to an improvement in early voting.
The win also validates Trump’s decision — much maligned by experts — to make a late play for states where Republicans have not been competitive since the days of Ronald Reagan’s landslides. Trump held a midnight rally on the last day of his campaign in Michigan, which last voted Republican in 1988. It may have paid off; Trump was leading with 93 percent of precincts reporting.
Trump also made a late visit to Minnesota, which has been in the Democratic column since 1972. Clinton was wining with 91 percent of the precincts reporting, but the margin was razor-thin.
It’s been a quadrennial tradition for Republicans to play for Pennsylvania — the swing state that never swings. Trump appears to have won it, the first for a Republican since 1988.
Big Challenges Ahead
Trump will take up residence in the Oval Office with a strong Republican majority in the House of Representatives and, likely, a narrow Republican majority in the Senate. But he also will face intense opposition from New York Sen. Charles Schumer, a bare-knuckled political brawler who is set to become the Democratic leader in the upper chamber. He also cannot count on a rubber stamp from members of his own party, some of whom actively opposed him.
Perhaps, more consequential, Trump faces a daunting task of uniting a badly divided country after a bitter race for the ages. Trump, himself, was responsible for much of the vitriol. Faced with her own unpopularity, Clinton settled on a slash-and-burn strategy that sought to make Trump an unacceptable choice. She even called many of his supporters “deplorables.”
Trump also faces enormous challenges once he starts the job. The economy is sluggish and defies easy solutions. Crime is rising in many American cities, and while it was a potent issue, it is not an area where presidents have direct control.
Trump has not spoken in detail about many policy positions. One policy area where Trump has been most consistent is trade. Trump’s election almost certainly means that President Obama’s 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact is dead — unless congressional supporters try to ram it through a lame-duck session before he takes office.
Then there is the big enchilada — the Supreme Court. The high court has been limping for months with eight justices as a result of Antonin Scalia’s sudden death and the decision by Senate Republicans to shut down Obama’s choice to replace him, appeals court Judge Merrick Garland.
That move sparked angry criticism from Democrats, who called it unprecedented obstructionism. Now, they are all but certain to try to turn the tables on Republicans. Trump released two lists of potential Supreme Court nominees. Conservatives greeted the suggestions positively.