Donald Trump defied expectations once again, riding a wave of blue-collar and white-voter anger to a stunning victory Tuesday that left Democrats reeling and Republicans in control.
Hillary Clinton called Trump to concede after 1:40 a.m. Central time. Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, took the stage to thank supporters shortly thereafter.
The Republican outperformed expectations and polls in key battleground states over and over throughout the night, taking Florida, Ohio and North Carolina. He was leading in Michigan and Wisconsin — two Midwestern powerhouses that haven’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980s.
He won Iowa and was ahead in Nebraska’s Omaha-based 2nd District— places where Democrat Hillary Clinton dedicated money and resources.
Trump would enter the White House as the leader of a nation clearly divided, but with a Republican majority in both the U.S. House and the Senate.
He would inherit a nation deeply divided by economic and educational opportunities, race and culture. Overall, the economy has rebounded from the depths of recession, but many Americans have yet to benefit. And he would assume power as new terror threats arise both at home and abroad.
Republicans’ dominance on Tuesday puts Trump and his supporters in prime position to push his populist agenda, including building a wall on the nation’s southern border and fulfilling his promise to immediately revoke President Barack Obama’s executive orders that protected some illegal immigrants from deportation.
Trump would also be in position to nominate — at a minimum — one U.S. Supreme Court justice.
“It’s a stunning victory,” said Kevin Smith, a political scientist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “No polling source that I know of gave him much more than a 20 percent chance of winning.”
“But there are huge questions about reconciliation and unity for the United States. You will certainly have some constituents out there who are going to feel pretty alienated by the results of this election,” Smith said.
The combative New York real estate developer’s path to victory was based in rural and blue-collar states including Ohio and Michigan, where there were large blocs of working men and women angry over rising immigration levels — both legal and illegal — and the loss of American jobs.
“They are upset for a number of reasons. They don’t feel heard, they don’t feel like government is hearing them, and there is this perception this country is changing and it’s not really theirs anymore,” Smith said.
Clinton did best among minorities but not at levels enjoyed by Obama, a fellow Democrat, in 2012.
In Iowa, Trump appeared to secure a landslide victory, with late-night results showing him with a double-digit lead over Clinton.
In Nebraska’s 2nd District, Trump maintained a lead over Clinton, even though he did not invest nearly as many resources in the district as she did. In fact, volunteers at Trump’s offices in Nebraska spent the past couple of weeks calling voters in battleground states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, as they were confident of winning the 2nd District.
U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., said people in this country want change. And she also said she believes Trump’s win was a backlash against Obama’s “liberal” agenda.
“This country is saying they want to shake things up. They want to see big changes happening,” said Fischer.
She also said she does not believe that anything will get easier in Washington, D.C., even with a Republican president and a Republican majority in Congress. The nation is divided and governing will remain hard, Fischer predicted.
“We have to come together. I don’t want to see our country torn apart. I hope we can (come together), but it’s very hard,” she said. “This country is very polarized.”
Fischer said she does expect the repeal of Obamacare, which she said clearly isn’t working, and other efforts to cut back on regulations burdening businesses. And she said she expects “step-by-step” changes on immigration, starting with efforts to secure the borders.
“We will have to see what happens in Congress on that as well,” she said.
The story of Trump’s victory lies in the fact that he did well in majority-white areas, while Clinton failed to fire up minority voters.
Exit polls showed that Trump was outperforming the Republican’s 2012 presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, among white voters, while Clinton was doing less well among nonwhite voters than Obama did four years ago, according to the Washington Post.
Among nonwhite voters, Clinton led Trump by 54 percentage points, a whopping advantage but one that was significantly smaller than Obama’s 61-point margin in 2012, according to preliminary exit poll data.
Trump, meanwhile, earned the votes of 60 percent of white men and 52 percent of white women. And he appeared to be consolidating the GOP coalition, bringing Republicans home in the final weeks of the campaign. The exit poll data indicated that he had won 88 percent of Republican votes cast and 78 percent of ballots cast by white evangelicals.
Clinton’s troubles began early in the night, when results showed her in trouble in both Florida and Virginia. She eked out a win in Virginia, a state that Obama won comfortably four years ago but lost Florida, a state that Obama also won in 2012.
It was a stunning conclusion to a candidacy that many had dismissed from the start, when Trump, a onetime reality television star, rode down an escalator in the summer of 2015 to announce his bid for the presidency.
In the beginning, Trump was considered the long shot. He then slowly but steadily consolidated his support within the Republican base, defeating 16 longtime politicians for the nomination. Many pollsters and others gave him little chance of defeating Clinton, despite the fact that some national polls showed the race within the margin of error.
In fact, only a few short weeks ago, some GOP leaders expressed concern that Trump’s unconventional candidacy would damage Republicans in down-ballot races and even flip some reliably red states in the presidential race. But Trump held onto Republican territory, including Georgia and Utah, where Clinton’s campaign had invested resources.