Real estate developer and television personality Donald Trump made history Tuesday, winning election as the 45th president of the United States without ever having sought or held public office before.
Just after 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, the Associated Press projected Trump as the winner after he had reached 274 electoral votes in come-from-behind victories in key contested states and Democrat strongholds such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
The billionaire businessman and Republican nominee—a former Democrat—and his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, defied nearly every pre-election poll and most Electoral College models.
Those polls and projections said the Democrat ticket of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia would win the White House.
Fox News Channel reported at 2:44 a.m. that Clinton had called Trump to concede.
“The American people have spoken,” Pence told a cheering crowd at the New York Hilton Midtown shortly afterward.
Trump then took the stage to shouts of “USA.”
“Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” Trump said. “I mean that very sincerely.”
“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division,” he said. “It is time for us to come together as one united people. … I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”
By the wee hours Wednesday, Trump needed only six more electoral votes to reach the required 270, the Associated Press reported. Other news outlets had him down 16 electoral votes or more.
At 2 a.m., Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta told subdued Clinton supporters gathered a few blocks away at the Javits Center that the Democratic nominee would not be speaking until more votes were counted.
This team has so much to be proud of. Whatever happens tonight, thank you for everything. pic.twitter.com/x13iWOzILL
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 9, 2016
Trump will be sworn in Jan. 20 having surprised the political world, first in the Republican primaries when he vanquished more than a dozen serious contenders, and then in the general election contest with Clinton.
Along the way, he pledged to build a wall across the southern border, encourage job creation, repeal and replace Obamacare, defeat radical Islamist terrorists, and take a tougher stance against trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Trump’s dramatic victory over Clinton caps one of the most unusual presidential election years in recent history, featuring two big personalities well-known to Americans for more than two decades.
The president-elect was a billionaire New York real estate mogul before becoming the host of NBC’s hit show “The Apprentice.” Before becoming secretary of state under President Barack Obama, Clinton was the first lady and a U.S. senator from New York.
Trump captured major swing states such as Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania that Obama carried twice. He also captured states that have been solidly blue in presidential races, such as Wisconsin.
Trump campaign manager and pollster Kellyanne Conway tweeted:
— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) November 9, 2016
Republicans also maintained control of the House and the Senate, which could provide a boost for Trump’s policy agenda.
However, Trump has at times clashed with those who initially endorsed him, including such senior Republicans as House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Numerous Republican notables didn’t endorse him, among them former primary opponents Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Trump’s closest primary opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, initially declined to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention. But, Cruz eventually endorsed the nominee, citing the importance of the Supreme Court.
During the campaign Trump took the unusual move of releasing a list of his potential high court nominees, which reassured many worried conservatives.
The vacancy left by the death in February of Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon, raised the stakes of the Supreme Court as an issue. Confirmation of a single justice could change the ideological makeup of the court.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2016
For Clinton, who once had a commanding lead in polls, it was a crushing defeat.
As in the 2008 Democratic primary season, Clinton began as a heavy favorite to win but struggled for months to defeat her main foe, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Obama made an extra effort, stumping for Clinton on a near-daily basis for the final two weeks of the campaign.
Clinton spent much of the campaign fending off an FBI investigation into her private email server, which she used to conduct State Department business.
Though FBI Director James Comey said in July that the agency would not recommend any charges, he announced a reopening of the probe 11 days before the election. Then, two days before the election, Comey informed Congress that the initial decision not to seek charges would stand.
I am just bursting with pride today. I want to tell every person I see that I work for @HillaryClinton.
— Jennifer Palmieri (@jmpalmieri) November 8, 2016
Trump faced his own October surprise when an 11-year-old video surfaced in which, without realizing he was being recorded, he described kissing and groping women. After that, more than a dozen women came forward to allege Trump had sexually harassed them.
The tone of the campaign was considered almost unrelentingly negative, as Trump routinely referred to Clinton as “Crooked Hillary” and Clinton referred to his supporters as a “basket of deplorables.”
Ken McIntyre contributed to this report.