By SHANE GOLDMACHER and BEN SCHRECKINGER
Donald Trump is going to be the next president of the United States.
The billionaire businessman who never before held elected office shocked America and the world, defeating Hillary Clinton in an extraordinary rebuke to the nation’s political class after an ugly and divisive race that will go down as the most stunning upset in American history.
Trump did so decisively, stomping across the electoral map with wins in the four biggest battlegrounds of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania. He defied the polls and pundits after a scorched-earth campaign against Clinton, the Republican establishment, and basic decorum, toppling the blue wall of states that Clinton had supposedly constructed to keep the White House in Democratic hands.
The nation, the markets and the world stood stunned, wondering what would come next. The Dow Futures sank as much as 750 points. The Mexico peso plunged.
“It is time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump said in a victory speech, following a concession call from Clinton at nearly 3 a.m. Eastern. “It’s time.”
Trump led an unseen rebellion of working-class voters, most of them white and so disgusted by a stalled status quo that they voted for a candidate promising dramatic change, even as Trump set disapproval records for a winning candidate. He also tapped into ethnic antagonism, vowing strict immigration controls, a ban on Muslims and a deportation force, promising an era of restoration.
“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer,” Trump declared.
Clinton had been heavily favored to win. She led national polls and in most battleground states heading into the election. Her allies were so confident that a supportive super PAC had actually redirected millions to other races.
But Trump had been underestimated from the first day of his candidacy, when he descended the gilded escalators of Trump Tower to bash Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” He went on to dispatch 16 rivals in the Republican primary before mounting a vicious campaign against Clinton in which he paraded her husband’s infidelities, repeatedly called her corrupt and questioned whether she could govern as a woman.
For 17 months, the reality television showman mesmerized the public with his unvarnished tweets, constant television presence and raucous mass rallies. His full-throttle grip on the national imagination enriched the news media and eroded standards of political civility.
It made him a hero to his fans. And they voted in droves.
In Mahoning County, a longtime Democratic stronghold and the home of Youngstown, Ohio, Trump held Clinton to roughly 50 percent. President Obama had carried the county with 63.2 percent of the vote. That was the story in place after place, as Trump sliced deeply into once large Democratic margins and built massive leads among rural voters.
“This is a movement. It’s more than a normal political election,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who was the first GOP senator to endorse Trump in late February. “It transcends normal party politics.”
For Clinton, the loss is especially brutal. She had meticulously planned her victory party at the Javits Center in Manhattan, symbolically under an enormous glass ceiling that she hoped to break through. Instead, it was the dreams and aspirations of her supporters that were shattered.
Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta said she was not ready to concede, calling for more votes to be counted. “She’s not done yet,” he announced early Wednesday morning.
But Clinton soon called Trump to concede.
At the Javits Center, a mass of Democrats stood aghast on the convention center floor watching CNN and MSNBC. They cheered every time a small state was called for Clinton, but those times were few and far between. She won Colorado and Virginia, but little else that was competitive.
Instead, they watched as state after state ticked into Trump’s column, her chance of becoming the first woman president snatched away by a man caught on tape bragging about groping women, and then accused in recent weeks by a dozen of doing just that.
They filed out without ever hearing her speak.
Across town, at the Trump party, the buzz was building. It exploded when Fox News declared Ohio for Trump, the first swing state to fall. “USA!” came the chants from the crowd.
Throughout his campaign, Trump made attacks on the “dishonest media” a centerpiece of his candidacy, becoming the first major candidate to refuse to release his tax returns. He avoided holding a press conference for the final three months of his candidacy.
One thing was clear from early exit polls: the divisive contest had left many Americans deeply unsatisfied with their choice. More than three in five of those interviewed viewed Trump unfavorably, meaning many who did not approve of him voted for him anyway.
“[T]he idea of change trumped everything else,” tweeted one of Trump’s pollsters Tony Fabrizio.
Trump’s strong showing was lifting Republicans down the ballot. In the Senate, Republicans scored a string of big victories. Sen. Marco Rubio won reelection in Florida, as did Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Sen. Richard Burr in North Carolina, while the GOP also knocked back Democratic former Sen. Evan Bayh in Indiana. The only early loss was in Illinois, where Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth knocked off the incumbent.
Trump will not only take the White House in 2017 but Republicans will control both chambers of Congress, where they have an appetite to unravel much of the progressive agenda enacted over the last eight years.
The five-month campaign between Clinton and Trump had become a must-see spectacle for the nation, gripping the public consciousness and drawing record viewership to their three debates, where she was widely viewed to have outflanked him.
In the final month, Trump battled back accusations of sexual assault after a tape emerged of him bragging about groping women in early October. In characteristic style, he lashed out as his accusers — threatening to sue them in a speech at Gettysburg. Clinton called him “temperamentally unfit” for the presidency and accused him of embracing racist, xenophobic and misogynistic rhetoric.
But Clinton was weighed down by 18 months of questions about her use of a private-email server at the State Department, including an FBI investigation that seemingly concluded in July — only to reemerge with 11 days left in the campaign. She was eventually cleared — again — of criminal wrongdoing only two days before the election.
But Trump continued to cry foul about a “rigged system” tilted against his outsider candidacy, and has threatened to seek her imprisonment.
“Lock her up!” has been the signature chant as his mass rallies.
Trump struck a more conciliatory note in his speech on Wednesday, speaking of how it was time to “bind the wounds of division.”
His upset victory is already sending shockwaves through financial markets. His idiosyncratic foreign policy views and his belief that the United States must be “unpredictable” in international affairs has sewn anxiety among allies and enemies alike. His regular compliments of Russian President Vladimir Putin have caused jitters across eastern Europe, ever-worried about Russian aggression.
“While we will always put America’s interests first, we will deal fairly with everyone,” Trump said.
Courtesy of www.politico.com