While the world watched with baited breath, in the early hours of Wednesday morning Republican candidate Donald Trump acquired the minimum 270 electoral votes required, officially making him President-elect of the United States of America. It was a stunning finale to a one of the most remarkable days in US electoral history, as commenters and pollsters alike were left with copious amounts of egg on their face.
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the US Presidency in July last year, voters laughed at the way he spoke, pundits smirked at his deep orange glow, and everyone sniggered at his buffoon-like hairstyle. His Presidential run was considered to be nothing more than a joke; a chance to shake things up. Albeit a damn expensive shake up.
At countless points over the past 18 months, every single political opponent and commentator declared Trump’s campaign dead or dying at some point. He sliced and diced his way through the other potential Republican Presidential nominees, bullying and blustering seasoned politicians like Jeb Bush out of the race. Many expected either Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz to outlast ‘The Donald’ during the long tortuous primary race. That didn’t happen either. In fact as the year wore on, Trump seemed to go from strength to strength. There were rumors of an RNC coup to deny him the nomination and force him to go solo, that never eventuated.
By the time the showdown with Hillary Clinton came to the fore many expected her to rip him to shreds. The mainstream media was almost entirely in Clinton’s court. Many influential Republican’s although unwilling to support Clinton, avoided the Trump show. The campaign itself was as nasty and personal as politics gets in Western democracies. Trump made multiple, countless statements that would’ve ended any normal politician’s campaign. The list of people he’s offended and threatened to marginalize is so long and extensive, it’s almost funny.
They said he couldn’t win with such a low female vote. They said he couldn’t win with such a poor Latino vote. Those with college educations it was said would abandon him in droves. They didn’t.
Then the now infamous “grab them by the pussy” video became the viral hit of the year and at last everyone assumed that ‘The Donald’ was dead. His poll numbers sunk, and Hillary pulled out a 10-point poll lead. But then most remarkably of all, he recovered, slowly, over the next fortnight.
By Tuesday morning Trump’s path to the White House seemed very narrow indeed. Quite simply Trump required victory in almost every major battleground state; Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Arizona, Nevada and New Hampshire. Florida would be the key. It was almost universal opinion that without Florida the Republican nominee’s path to the Presidency would be virtually impossible.
As polls across the country progressively closed for counting, Trump gained an early lead seizing Indiana and Kentucky, whilst Clinton claimed Vermont. The Democrats had expressed a hope that Georgia would be in play for them, as the political landscape in that state began to shift. For this election though, it remained in Republican hands.
Both camps then added to their tallies via traditional routes, with states including New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland for Clinton and Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina for Trump.
At this point there wasn’t anything overtly concerning for the Democrats, Florida was line-ball, but that’s what was expected from the most heavily campaigned state in the country.
It was at this point of counting when things began to slowly unravel for the Democrats. Florida, slowly and inexorably began to lean more and more towards Trump. The first cracks in the seemingly invincible blue ship had begun to show.
Although it would be quite a few hours before Florida would be declared for Trump, elsewhere cracks in Clinton’s Blue Ship had sprung leaks. North Carolina was next. Another fierce, fierce battleground. But the Trump supporters here emerged en masse, a trend that would soon be replicated around the country.
The falseness of the polls also showed up in Virginia, where Trump held a sizeable margin until late in the evening when enough Clinton votes arrived from the densely populated counties. Although she held Virginia, panic was starting to set in at Clinton HQ in Manhattan.
Most other states fell as we expected, the entire West Coast alongside Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico for the Democrats, and the red belt from Idaho and Montana in the north to Texas in the south for the Republicans.
It was in the country’s north, in Democrat heartland though where the real blow of this election would land. Michigan and Wisconsin considered two safe blue seats, were about to stab Hillary Clinton in the back. Trump knew that to win Democrat and battleground states he had to make ground in rural counties and narrow the damage inflicted by Clinton in large cities. In 2012 Obama took Wisconsin with a solid smattering of support from rural counties, however on Tuesday, Trump flipped the table completely almost entirely running the state, minus the strong segments of Democrat support in the south. Stealing such a strong Democratic state created uproar and bedlam on Twitter, a clear path to that magic 270 delegates was now open.
But Trump wasn’t done yet. Michigan and then Pennsylvania turned their back on who would’ve been America’s first female president. Although Michigan is yet to be called officially, it seems almost inevitable that it will add to Trump’s current delegate and push him over the 300 mark.
Pennsylvania was the biggest shock of all. All through the evening Clinton held a lead, at points a solid, commanding one. But slowly it too began its transformation into a red state. By evenings end the Republican’s had opened over 1% lead, an almost unfathomable thought on Tuesday morning.
By now panic had turned to despair and horror on the floor of Clinton headquarters, as supporters who’d gathered expecting a celebration were hit with the harsh reality that not only had their candidate lost, but humiliatingly so.
The result was ultimately so comprehensive that despite New Hampshire, Minnesota and Michigan still remaining undeclared, the result was already decided.
The post-mortem for the Democrats will take some time, as they recover from arguably the biggest upset in US political history. For Hillary Clinton this defeat will likely spell the end of her political career, she’s effectively tainted goods and the Democratic Party will look to re-build in the post-Clinton era.
As for President-elect Trump, he now has two months to prepare for the transition of power from outgoing President Obama. Trump already has numerous fences to repair before he steps into office; his divisive and threatening language on the campaign trail has left many voters with an uneasy feeling, especially those minorities and women whom he attacked mercilessly. Better still for Trump, he and the Republicans hold the complete balance of power in Washington with majorities in the House of Reps and the Senate (all acquired on Tuesday), making it far easier for President Trump to repudiate Obama’s legislation.
In his victory speech, Trump said, “Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; we have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.” The future for many Americans and indeed for many citizens of the world right now is uncertain; Donald Trump has cracked open the establishment and altered the political landscape. But just what brand of President will Trump be? The campaign Trump, or the more conciliatory and reflective man we saw during his unusual victory speech. The world waits with baited breath.