Donald Trump is the projected winner of the 2016 presidential election, according to calls by the Associated Press.
The GOP nominee is now the projected winner in enough states to give him more than 270 electoral votes. And Hillary Clinton has called Trump to concede, according to multiple media outlets.
As expected, he won all the solid red states and the “lean Trump” swing states of Ohio and Iowa. He also held two must-win big swing states, North Carolina and Florida.
But most crucially of all, he broke into Hillary Clinton’s “firewall” by winning Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, states her campaign had long assumed it had in the bag.
Trump did so on the basis of overwhelming support in rural areas, particularly among non-college-educated whites (though he apparently ended up narrowly winning college-educated whites too). Such support was sufficient to swamp Clinton’s support among nonwhite voters in states like Florida and North Carolina, and powered him to his shocking upset victories in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
How to think about this election: white working class voters just decided to vote like a minority group. They're >40% of the electorate.— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) November 9, 2016
The results are a stunning rebuke to many. The polls got it wrong, particularly in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The major election forecasting models got it wrong (though FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver deserved credit for being significantly less certain about it). The campaign professionals got it wrong. The pundits got it oh so very wrong indeed, again and again since Trump entered the race and even before.
And the outcome will be truly terrifying to Democrats and even many Republicans who sincerely believed Trump was an unstable, racist demagogue who shouldn’t have access to the nuclear codes.
But Trump defied them all.
How Trump did it
Trump entered the race back in June 2015 with a dramatically different approach from the plethora of Republican contenders. Rather than repeating the familiar conservative movement talking points on free markets and small governments, he demagogued Mexican immigrants as “rapists” in his announcement speech, and he called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the US after the San Bernardino terror attacks.
This platform — along with Trump’s sharp attacks on elites and trade deals, his domination of media coverage, and his slash-and-burn attacks on any rival who challenged him — propelled him to the top of the polls and kept him there throughout the primaries. And intentionally or not, what he was offering resembled a global trend of rising populist nationalism among white citizens of Western nations.
Once Trump won the primaries, the Republican establishment for the most part submitted to their voters’ will, with leaders like Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and Reince Priebus endorsing him, some more begrudgingly than others.
This was a crucial step in the normalization of a man many Republicans had privately dismissed as temperamentally unfit for the presidency. Once party elites for the most part fell behind him, arguing for the necessity of defeating Hillary Clinton, their voters had no more reason to demur.
How Clinton blew it
The Democrats’ choice to nominate Clinton, a disliked figure of the establishment plagued by scandal, will be endlessly second-guessed.
And Clinton herself made many mistakes — not the last of which was using a private email server for all her State Department work, spurring an FBI investigation.
But the reason Clinton lost is really pretty simple — she just lost too many rural, working-class white voters to Donald Trump. And that’s what made the difference in the Electoral College in states like Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
In recent years, Democrats had increasingly embraced a strategy of appealing to college-educated social liberals on the coasts and nonwhite voters throughout the country. They thought that since the country was becoming increasingly nonwhite, that would be sufficient to propel them to victory, even as they ran on an increasingly left-wing agenda.
But as least as far as the Electoral College goes — we don’t yet know who’s won the popular vote — they were wrong. Trump’s appeals to white identity politics and criticisms of Clinton’s corruption were enough to build him a coalition of more than 270 electoral votes in predominately white and rural states. And now he’s going to be the president of all the United States.