Defying the pundits, pollsters, odds makers, political professionals and financial markets, Donald J. Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States on Tuesday, and in the end, it wasn’t all that close. How did it happen?
1. Trump Bested Romney & Hillary Underperformed Obama. Trump won, and Hillary lost, many states Obama won, and Romney lost, in 2012: Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, and he may win Michigan. Whether it was because of Trump’s criticism of trade deals, outsourcing, or the loss of manufacturing jobs, or his ability to turn out disaffected whites, when the exit polls are analyzed, they will likely show that Trump brought back into the GOP tent millions of “Reagan Democrats” of yesterday, blue collar Americans whose values don’t align with the progressive sentiments of the coastal elites who run the Democratic party. Hillary also failed to excite and turn out core voters from the Obama coalition, including young voters, women and minorities.
2. America Voted for a Change in Substance. Trump won because Hillary promised more of the same: keeping Obamacare; amnesty for illegal immigrants; destroying the economy to halt “climate change;” increased use of executive orders; appointing liberal judges to the Supreme Court; more refugees from failed Muslim states; higher taxes and more regulations. Trump promised to undo the Iran deal, stop illegal immigration and repeal Obamacare. Americans said, “we’re not with her.”
3. History Can Wait. Normal Americans, those who don’t obsessively read Politico, were likely more swayed by Hillary’s endless scandals – Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation, her emails – than the opportunity to elect the first female president. On this front, Trump had no greater friends than Wikileaks and President Obama, whose historic and failed presidency inspired the change voters desired. Consequently, Hillary didn’t come close to matching Obama’s historic 2008 performance of over 69 million votes and 365 Electoral College votes. So far, Hillary has 59 million votes and 228 Electoral College votes.
4. Polls Can’t Measure Enthusiasm. Heading into Tuesday, the New York Times gave Hillary an 84% chance to win the presidency, 9 out of the 11 national polls taken the last week showed Hillary winning, and Hillary was up by 3.2% in the RealClearPolitics national polling average. Further, most polls gave Democrats the edge to retake the Senate. As Trump won state after state, and the GOP retained several key Senate races – Marco Rubio in Florida, Richard Burr in North Carolina, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Roy Blunt in Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio, and most surprisingly, Ron Johnson in Wisconsin – it became clear that the polls were wrong and didn’t measure voter sentiment or Trump enthusiasm.
5. America Is Willing to Roll the Dice. Continuing the trend of political bipolarity (electing Bill Clinton after Bush 41, Obama after Bush 43), the country that twice elected Barack Obama, the hyper liberal community organizer with no leadership experience, elected Donald Trump, the politically inconsistent billionaire real estate developer and reality TV star with no political experience, and, perhaps as importantly, gave him a Republican controlled House and Senate. Trump thus finds himself in the same position as Obama in 2009: his party controls it all, and he has a historic opportunity to shape the Supreme Court and national policy.
On the Court, he will name at least one Supreme Court justice right away (Mitch McConnell now looks like a genius for stonewalling Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland), and he may get one or two more appointments. If Trump sticks to his published list of intended Supreme Court nominees, the Court will be considerably more conservative for the next 30 years, and may correct the legal errors of the last 8 years on Obamacare, marriage, religious freedom, affirmative action, environmental regulations, and other issues.
On policy, besides immigration, Obamacare and trade deals, Trump has the chance to undo through executive orders much of the Obama legacy enacted through executive orders, including the so-called Clean Power Plan to address “climate change,” the bathroom regulations, burdensome rules on employers, and heavy handed government contracting rules.
Trump has done America a great service by keeping the Clintons (as well as Huma, Podesta, and the rest) out of the White House for a second time. If he does nothing more than appoint a Constitutional conservative (or two) to the Court, overturn Obama’s executive orders and repeal Obamacare, his presidency will be a success. Here’s to hoping he follows through on his campaign promises.