Republican Donald Trump stunned the world by defeating heavily favoured rival Hillary Clinton in Tuesday’s presidential election, ending eight years of Democratic rule and sending the United States on a new, uncertain path.
A wealthy real estate developer and former reality TV host, Trump rode a wave of anger toward Washington insiders to win the White House race against Clinton, the Democratic candidate whose gold-plated establishment resume included stints as a first lady, US senator and secretary of state.
President Barack Obama, who campaigned hard against Trump, telephoned the Republican to congratulate him on his victory and invited him to the White House for a meeting on Thursday, the White House said in a statement. Obama is due to speak later on Wednesday about the election.
‘Ensuring a smooth transition of power is one of the top priorities the president identified at the beginning of the year and a meeting with the president-elect is the next step,’ the White House said.
Worried that a Trump victory could cause economic and global uncertainty, investors were in full flight from risky assets.
The US dollar, Mexican peso and world stocks fell on Wednesday but fears of the kind of shock that wiped trillions of dollars off global markets after Britain’s ‘Brexit’ vote in June have failed to materialise so far.
Trailing in public opinion polls for months, Trump pulled off a major surprise and collected enough of the 270 state-by-state electoral votes needed to win, taking battleground states where presidential elections are traditionally decided, US television networks projected. His four-year term starts on January 20.
Trump appeared with his family early on Wednesday before cheering supporters in a New York hotel ballroom, saying it was time to heal the divisions caused by the campaign and find common ground after a campaign that exposed deep differences among Americans.
‘It is time for us to come together as one united people,’ Trump said. ‘I will be president for all Americans.’
He said he had received a call from Clinton to congratulate him on the win and praised her for her service and for a hard-fought campaign.
His comments were an abrupt departure from his campaign trail rhetoric in which he repeatedly slammed Clinton as ‘crooked’ amid supporters’ chants of ‘lock her up.’
But Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, on Wednesday did not rule out the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton’s past conduct, a threat Trump made in an election debate last month.
Republicans also kept control of the US Congress.
Television networks projected the party would retain majorities in both the 100-seat Senate and the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats were up for grabs.
Despite losing the state-by-state electoral battle that determines the US presidency, Clinton narrowly led Trump in the nationwide popular vote, according to US media tallies. It would mark the second time in 16 years that a Democratic candidate lost the presidency despite winning more votes than the victor. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore got more votes than Republican George W Bush.
At Clinton’s election event a mile away from Trump’s victory party, an electric atmosphere among supporters expecting to see her become America’s first woman president dissipated.
Clinton did not immediately make a concession speech, instead sending campaign chairman John Podesta out to tell her supporters to go home. ‘We’re not going to have anything more to say tonight,’ he said. Clinton was to speak to staff and supporters on Wednesday at 9:30am (1430 GMT), an aide said.
Prevailing in a cliffhanger race that opinion polls had clearly forecast as favouring a Clinton victory, Trump won avid support among a core base of white non-college educated workers with his promise to be the ‘greatest jobs president that God ever created.’ He did well in ‘Rust Belt’ states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio.
‘Such a beautiful and important evening! The forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again. We will all come together as never before,’ Trump wrote on Twitter early on Wednesday.
In his victory speech, he said he had a great economic plan, would embark on a project to rebuild American infrastructure and would double US economic growth.
Trump, who at 70 will be the oldest first-term US president, came out on top after a bitter and divisive campaign that focused largely on the character of the candidates and whether they could be trusted in the Oval Office.
The presidency will be Trump’s first elected office, and it remains to be seen how he will work with Congress. During the campaign Trump was the target of sharp disapproval, not just from Democrats but from many in his own party.
Foreign leaders pledged to work with Trump but some officials expressed alarm that the vote could mark the end of an era in which Washington promoted democratic values and was seen by its allies as a guarantor of peace.
During the campaign, Trump expressed admiration for Russian president Vladimir Putin, questioned central tenets of the NATO military alliance and suggested that Japan and South Korea should develop nuclear weapons to shoulder their own defence burden.
Russia and Putin appeared to be winners from Trump’s victory. Defying years of US foreign policy orthodoxy, the Republican has promised much warmer relations with Moscow, despite Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war and its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
US neighbour Mexico was pitched into deep uncertainty by the victory for Trump, who has often accused it of stealing US jobs and sending criminals across the border.
Trump wants to rewrite international trade deals to reduce trade deficits and has taken positions that raise the possibility of damaging relations with America’s most trusted allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
The Mexican peso plunged more than 13 per cent before recovering some ground. The peso had become a touchstone for sentiment on the election as Trump threatened to rip up a free trade agreement with Mexico.
Trump’s win raises a host of questions for the United States at home and abroad. He campaigned on a pledge to take the country on a more isolationist, protectionist ‘America First’ path. He has vowed to impose a 35 per cent tariff on goods exported to the United States by US companies that went abroad.
Trump survived a series of seemingly crippling blows on the campaign, many of them self-inflicted, including the emergence in October of a 2005 video in which he boasted about making unwanted sexual advances on women. He apologised but within days, several women emerged to say he had groped them, allegations he denied. He was judged the loser of all three presidential debates with Clinton.
A Reuters/Ipsos national Election Day poll offered some clues to the outcome. It found Clinton badly underperformed expectations with women, winning their vote by only about 2 percentage points.
And while she won Hispanics, black and young voters, Clinton did not win those groups by greater margins than Obama did in 2012. Younger blacks did not support Clinton like they did Obama, as she won eight of 10 black voters between the ages of 35 and 54. Obama won almost 100 per cent of those voters in 2012.
During the campaign, Trump said he would ‘make America great again’ through the force of his personality, negotiating skill and business acumen. He proposed refusing entry to the United States of people from war-torn Middle Eastern countries, a modified version of an earlier proposed ban on Muslims.
His volatile nature, frequent insults and unorthodox proposals led to campaign feuds with a long list of people, including Muslims, the disabled, Republican US senator John McCain, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, the family of a slain Muslim-American soldier, a Miss Universe winner and a federal judge of Mexican heritage.
A largely anti-Trump crowd of about 400 to 500 people gathered outside the White House after his victory, many shocked or in tears. Some carried signs that read ‘stand up to racism’ and ‘love trumps hate.’ About a dozen Trump supporters began shouting ‘U-S-A’ and the competing demonstrators briefly pushed each other.
The election was unprecedented in the way it turned Americans against each other, according to dozens of interviews in rural United States and across some of the most politically charged battleground states.
Throughout his campaign, and especially in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention in July, Trump described a dark America that had been knocked to its knees by China, Mexico, Russia and Islamic State. The American dream was dead, he said, smothered by malevolent business interests and corrupt politicians, and he alone could revive it.
He has vowed to win economic concessions from China and to build a wall on the southern US border with Mexico to keep out undocumented immigrants.
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