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President-elect Donald Trump is suddenly a real possibility

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Monday, April 25, 2016, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on April 25, 2016, in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Mel Evans/AP Photo
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign had every reason to start Election Day feeling confident. Clinton had led consistently in the polls since Donald Trump declared for president. Despite a rocky last week of the campaign, forecasters were debating only whether her victory was likely or all but guaranteed.

Things look a lot different 12 hours later.

Donald Trump is having a better election night than anyone expected going into Tuesday. He’s kept races tight or won outright in the three states he needed to win to have a shot at the White House.

And his strong performance among rural and white voters, including in areas that have traditionally voted Democratic, suggests that Clinton’s rock-solid “firewall”Virginia, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — might not hold after all.

Trump won or is winning in Ohio, Florida, and North Carolina

Trump had three states he needed to win to keep a path to victory open: Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida. He’s either won or is on track to win in all of them.

None of these states were must-wins for Clinton, who has a path to 270 electoral votes and the presidency without them. But they were states where Trump had to be victorious in order to keep his path to the presidency open.

The polls in all three states have been tight, but going into Election Day they generally showed Clinton leading. So Trump’s victories, while not totally outside the realm of possibility, are surprising. More than surprising: stunning. As CNN has checked in on races, anchors repeatedly have said they’re shocked that they’re even discussing the possibility of a Trump presidency seriously.

Clinton’s firewall is holding — so far

The good news for the Clinton campaign, if there is good news, is that the states Clinton needed to win she’s won, so far.

Major networks have called Colorado and Virginia, two states in the six-state “firewall” that would provide the 270 votes she needs for the presidency, for Clinton. The other four states — New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — are still counting votes and are too close to call.

Those states have traditionally voted for Democrats. But they also have fewer nonwhite voters, a group that has turned out strongly for Clinton, as a share of the population than Florida or North Carolina. Trump’s strong performance so far has relied on his ability to turn out white voters in his favor. The question is whether traditional partisanship will win out, or whether Clinton is in for a shocking defeat.

Watch: Trump’s success reveals weakness in our democracy

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