Trump victory speech

Image courtesy of CNN

Trump Wins Presidency,
Defying Odds and Pundits

| published November 9, 2016 |

By R. Alan Clanton, Thursday Review editor

The longest, most expensive—and arguably the most contentious—American presidential election campaign in history has finally concluded, catapulting businessman Donald J. Trump into the White House after a long primary and caucus season which saw some 17 Republicans and six Democrats vie for the honor to sit in the Oval Office.

Trump, who won the GOP’s nomination only after a bruising primary and caucus process despite having no elected experience, capped off his unlikely political journey by surprising pollsters, journalists and political experts alike, and by tapping into the frustration of millions of Americans angry at Washington. Republican Trump defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, who called to concede to Trump at 2:35 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Reports of Clinton’s phone call to Trump came only seconds before some media outlets projected that Trump would win Arizona, putting him solidly above the 270 required electoral votes.

In New York City, vice presidential nominee Mike Pence came out on stage at Trump’s victory rally at the Hyatt at 2:45 a.m. to address and room packed with supporters, where Pence confirmed Clinton’s call to the winner and to introduce Trump, who came out on stage just moments later. Victorious, Trump nevertheless called for national unity, asking supporters and those who did not support him during the bitter campaign help him rebuild a nation reeling from a brutal political fight.

“Now is the time for Americans to bind together the wounds of division,” Trump told cheering supporters, “and now is the time for us to come together as a nation.”

“Ours was not a campaign, but a movement,” he reminded those in the room and those watching on television.

The billionaire real estate mogul, age 70, becomes the oldest person ever to be elected President. Trump’s near-landslide came only after a grueling night of tabulating election results in which nearly every U.S. state was in play, and as Democratic strategists watched as Trump captured some states not won by a Republican presidential candidate in decades.

The majority of voters, many of whom in exit polls expressed anger and frustration at the generally negative tone of the campaign, the constant media attention paid toward personal attacks, and the often bitter and rancorous nature of the scores of debates, now decompress and—hopefully—detoxify, after a season which began nearly two years ago with the formation of political action committees by Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders, among others. Polls showed that Trump and Clinton were arguably the two least liked and unpopular presidential candidates in U.S. history, a reflection—some have suggested—of a crack-up in the predominantly two party system in place for more than a century, but also an indicator of deep and fundamental changes in how Americans process their political conversation.

The narrowness of Trump’s victory in a few states may still become an issue, as recounts in certain locations may be required by law. On the whole, however, the closeness of the race in some states was offset by the landslide color of the electoral map. As late as midday on the East Coast of the U.S., some polls were still showing the race precariously tight, with at least seven so-called swing states remaining in play, including North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Florida and Pennsylvania. Indeed, the race became a nail-biter—a nip-and-tuck race so close that the outcome of some states came down to the votes trickling in from single counties. As of Wednesday morning, several states were still being declared too close to call, including New Hampshire, Minnesota and Michigan.

Trouble for Clinton’s electoral strategy began to emerge early in the evening, even as polls were just beginning to close in the eastern states. NBC News made the first of its major calls only moments after the polls closed in six states, giving Indiana and its 11 electoral votes and Kentucky and its 8 votes to Trump at 7:01 p.m., and tossing Vermont into Clinton’s column only seconds later. Thirty minutes later, as polls closed in another several states, NBC News and other networks gave West Virginia to Trump as well. By shortly after 8 p.m., CBS News was projecting that Clinton would win Illinois and its rich cache of 20 electoral votes, and by 8:09 p.m. CBS had given Rhode Island to Clinton as well, even as both Florida, North Carolina and Virginia remained too close to call. Her strategy dependent on capturing many of the battleground states, Clinton was never able to recover, even as her most solidly-reliable states fell into place.

At 9 p.m., CNN called New York for Clinton—her most coveted prize and home state to both Trump an Clinton—and gave Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota to Trump. At 9:12 p.m. CNN and other media sources delivered Texas to Trump, boosting his electoral count significantly. Later in the evening, California would go—as expected—to Clinton, briefly giving her a lead in the all-important Electoral College vote total. Clinton also won substantial victories in Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts, traditionally Democratic states which only rarely send Republicans to Washington.

But as the evening wore on, the voting became strikingly close in several of the states expected only days earlier to tilt toward Clinton, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina—but states in which Trump made deep inroads by pulling-in larger than expected totals, or in traditional Democratic strongholds where turnout for Clinton was weaker than predicted. At times the vote difference between Clinton and Trump in some states was as little as 2,000. Shortly before midnight, Clinton led Trump by only about 8,000 votes in Maine statewide; at 12:30 a.m., only 15 votes separated Trump from Clinton in New Hampshire.

As in several past elections, Florida remained at the center of the narrative, with Trump maintaining a narrow lead for hours, then pulling slightly ahead as the evening wore on, with a vote difference statewide at times only a few thousand votes, and as Democratic strategists became increasingly dependent on late returns from Broward and Palm Beach counties. In the end, Florida fell into Trump’s column, as the tens of thousands of Latino votes proved to be not as pivotal as predicted by the political analysts only hours earlier.

Florida became a harbinger for the pattern emerging: incoming vote results indicated that Trump was making deep inroads in almost every part of the country, penetrating even counties and towns often characterized as Democratic strongholds. California became Clinton’s last big prize, even as she won small pockets of support from liberal states like Washington, Oregon and Hawaii. Trump won Missouri, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa and Arizona—all states widely thought to be within reach of Clinton, and all necessary in Clinton’s electoral playbook.

Despite isolated cases of irregularities at a few polling places—most notably in Pennsylvania where some voters complained that machines signaled they had voted for Democrats when in fact they had voted for Republicans—there were no cases of voter intimidation, no complaints of fraud, and very few instances of technical malfunctions. And after 10 days of worries and fears about hackers interfering with election systems or cyber terrorists shutting down the internet, no serious digital or technical disruptions were reported.

Republicans will retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, important forms of leverage for the GOP going forward and an indicator of the strength of Trump’s coattails.

Though Clinton had conceded by phone to Trump at 2:35 a.m. in the East, neither she nor her campaign offered a public pronouncement of defeat during the night. Instead, Clinton spokesperson’s said that she would address her supporters and the media the next day. Though the election’s outcome was not to change, several states remained too close to call at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, including New Hampshire, Minnesota and Michigan.

Global markets reacted with varying degrees of confusion and trepidation to the news of Trump’s victory, with stocks falling sharply in a dozen trading centers on fears that Trump’s policies toward trade agreements could substantially alter economic flow.

Related Thursday Review articles:

New Email Problems May Dog Clinton; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; October 30, 2016.

Government Agencies Combat Election Disruptions; Thursday Review staff; Thursday Review; November 6, 2016.