Donald J. Trump will be president of the United States: How the stunning political upset happened

 

The once unlikely prospect of a Donald Trump took surprising shape Tuesday night, as a nasty and divisive election careened toward a nail-biting climax that saw the Republican named the next U.S. president.

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Pushing an anti-free-trade, nativist platform that galvanized white, less-educated American men while turning off many women and minorities, Trump was behind in the opinion polls through most of the presidential campaign.

Within a couple of hours of polls closing, Trump had sketched out a potential path to that goal that seemed unimaginable before results started streaming in. Trump broke through a longstanding Democratic firewall, carrying Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — states that hadn’t voted for a GOP presidential candidate since the 1980s.

He needed to win nearly all of the competitive battleground states, and he did just that, claiming Florida, Ohio, North and others.

His triumph over Hillary Clinton will end eight years of Democratic dominance of the White House and threatens to undo major achievements of President Barack Obama. 

John Moore / Getty Images
John Moore / Getty ImagesPeople watch the voting results at Hillary Clinton's election night event in New York.

But in an acceptance speech early Wednesday , Trump took a more conciliatory tone, congratulating Clinton on “a very, very hard-fought campaign” and calling on Americans to “bind the wounds of division.”

“We owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” Trump said. “It is time for us to come together as one united people…. I will be president for all Americans.”

Despite an erratic style that frequently veered off message, Trump connected with working-class white Americans who felt left behind by the U.S. recovery.

markets reacted quickly and negatively to the possibility of his winning and implementing economic policies that include tearing up various free-trade deals. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures on Wall Street, Japan’s Nikkei index and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index all plummeted.

Stephanie Strasburg / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
Stephanie Strasburg / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via APGOP supporter Georgia Touloumes, center, 86, of Venetia, Pa., shouts in joy surrounded by her family as more states are announced for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on TV in Bethel Park, a suburb of Pittsburgh.

“It’s all a little bit crazy now,” Chris Weston, chief markets strategist at IG Markets in Melbourne, told the Washington Post. “Pollsters need to go away and have a holiday — every single one of them should be fired. Markets weren’t prepared for this.”

By 11:30 p.m. ET, U.S. media outlets had declared Trump the victor in Florida, an always-critical, vote-rich swing state.

The former host of TV’s Apprentice won North Carolina, another lynchpin state, and Ohio, a place that has voted for the president since the 1960s.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla / Getty ImagesRepublican president- greets people in the crowd after delivering his acceptance speech early Wednesday.

He was even leading in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, perennial Democratic enclaves, and just barely lost Virginia, where Clinton running mate Tim Kaine was governor.

Clinton was vying to become the country’s first female head of state — encumbered by controversies from her years as secretary of state and in the years afterward.

By 2 a.m. ET, Clinton campaign chair John Podesta told the crowd at an election event that the Democratic nominee wouldn’t make a speech until later Wednesday morning.

“Get some sleep,” he said. “It’s been a long night and it’s been a long campaign.”

In his victory speech, Trump said Clinton called him early Wednesday to concede defeat and congratulate him.

Trump was trying to make history as a political outsider who promised to clean up the “swamp” of Washington — yet battled accusations of racism, sexism and questionable business practices.

“To be historic, we have to do a great job,” Trump said early Wednesday. “And I promise you that I will not let you down.”

In an increasingly polarized political environment, they were two of the most disliked candidates ever to vie for the White House.

Trump has vowed to crack down on illegal immigrants, scrap free-trade deals he considers unfair and better seal the country’s borders.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla / Getty ImagesRepublican president- Trump delivers his acceptance speech during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours Wednesday.

Election day came in the United States at the end of a campaign like few others, pitting Trump, an extraordinary political outsider who broke most of the rules of the game, against Clinton, a political veteran trailed by years of baggage and multiple controversies.

As a larger-than-life real estate mogul and reality-television star, Trump was never given a chance when he launched his campaign in June 2015, entering a crowded race for the Republican nomination.

He generated controversy from the first day, announcing he would have a wall built along the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants he suggested were mostly rapists and drug traffickers.

Trump continued to draw condemnation as the primary season unfolded and he pursued a combative, politically incorrect strategy.

He was lambasted for vowing to bar Muslims from entering the country as a way to limit the risk of terrorism, and to expel millions of illegal immigrants, but also built a powerful core of loyal supporters.

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik
AP Photo/Andrew HarnikDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, accompanied by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, left, smiles as she votes at Douglas G. Grafflin School in Chappaqua, N.Y., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. At far left is senior aide Huma Abedin.

By the end of the Republican contest, he had improbably and convincingly triumphed.

Clinton, who lost a bid for the Democratic nomination in 2008 to Barack Obama, had at one point been viewed as a shoo-in for the position in 2016. But she faced a surprisingly strong fight from Sen. Bernie Sanders, who challenged a party elite he argued had lost touch with the concerns of ordinary Americans.

But she eked out a solid victory over Sanders and strode into the general election ahead of Trump in most polls, despite lingering questions about her use of a private email server while secretary of state, and the Clintons’ relationship to wealthy donors to the family foundation.

What followed were a series of twists, turns and tumbles into the gutter that stunned Americans and the world.

Trump clashed with the parents of a Muslim-American soldier killed in Iraq and hurled Twitter insults at a former Miss Universe he had criticized for gaining weight.

He not only refused to release his income-tax returns as has become tradition for presidential candidates, but seemed to admit that he hadn’t paid personal income taxes for years.

But after falling behind in the polls, the Republican crept back into contention, only to see his campaign crater when The Washington Post reported on a decade-old recording in which he talked of kissing and sexually touching women without their permission.

Clinton seemed to have the race in the bag.

But then she fell victim to an unexpected development herself, as the FBI announced it was looking again at the email-server issue after discovering thousands more emails in the course of another investigation.

With barely a day to go before polling started, the bureau announced that it had found nothing that warranted further charges.

<em>With files from Jake Edmiston, National Post and the Associated Pres</em>

ANGELA WEISS / AFP / Getty Images
ANGELA WEISS / AFP / Getty Images A worker steams an American flag at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, ahead of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's election night event.
Jennifer Corbett/The Wilmington News-Journal via AP
Jennifer Corbett/The Wilmington News-Journal via APVice President Joe Biden watches as his wife Jill Biden signs the register before voting Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, at A.I. DuPont High School in Wilmington, Del.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
AP Photo/Paul SancyaRepublican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.
AP Photo/Steve Helber
AP Photo/Steve HelberDemocratic vice presidential candidate US Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., talks with Minerva Trupin, front, as they wait to vote in Richmond, Va., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.
PAUL J. RICHARDS / AFP / Getty Images
PAUL J. RICHARDS / AFP / Getty ImagesPeople cast their votes for U.S. president and local politics November 8, 2016, at Colin Powwell Elementary School, in Centreville, Virginia. Polling stations opened Tuesday as the first ballots were cast in the long-awaited election pitting Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump.
Jessica McGowan/Getty Images
Jessica McGowan/Getty ImagesEarly morning voters including (left to right) Ali Gross, Esteban Simian and Cheryl Gratton wait for 1.5 hours to cast their ballot on election day November 8, 2016 at Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia. After a contentious campaign season, Americans go to the polls today to choose the next president of the United States.
ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty Images
ERIC BARADAT/AFP/Getty ImagesHundreds of people crowd a side walk on a main street leading to the White House (background R) in downtown Washington, DC waiting to enter a polling station to vote for the next US president in the general election in Washington, DC November 8, 2016.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesMembers of the New York Police Department stand guard at the Midtown Hilton where Republican presidential candidate Donald Trumps's election night party will be held, November 8, 2016 in New York City.
AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
AP Photo/Mark LennihanA voter, left, confirms his address with a poll worker before voting, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in the Boro Park neighbourhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York.
Tom Hawley/The Monroe News via AP
Tom Hawley/The Monroe News via APJeremy and Kayla Dehner, brought their children, Adalyn, 4, and 10-month-old twins Garrett and Emmelia for the first time to vote at Monroe Township Hall in Mpnre, Mich., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, as steady lines were at 5 and 6 this morning in Monroe Township.
AP Photo/Seth Wenig
AP Photo/Seth WenigDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and her husband former President Bill Clinton, greet in Chappaqua, N.Y., Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty ImagesDemocratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton greets supporters after voting at Douglas Grafflin Elementary School on November 8, 2016 in Chappaqua, New York.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
AP Photo/Mary AltafferA campaign worker holds up a white sheet on the stage for camera crews to adjust their white balance during preparations for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's election night rally, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in New York.
Whitney Curtis/Getty Images
Whitney Curtis/Getty ImagesVoters wait for polls to open on November 8, 2016 at the Midwest Genealogy Center Library in Independence, Missouri, United States. Citizens of the United States will choose between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as they pick their choice for the next president of the United States.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesRepublican presidential nominee Donald Trump's campaign manager Kellyanne Conway (L) and his daughter Tiffany Trump listen to Trump speak during his final campaign rally on Election Day in the Devos Place November 8, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Trump's last day of campaigning stretched past midnight and into Election Day.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesSupporters listen to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during his final campaign rally on Election Day in the Devos Place November 8, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Trump's marathon last day of campaigning stretched past midnight and into Election Day.
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