Americans fed up with eight years of a sluggish economy and a growing disconnect with their leaders in Washington voted Tuesday to send businessman and political novice Donald Trump to the White House, guaranteeing one of the biggest shakeups in political history.
Wins in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin gave him enough projected electoral votes to defeat former first lady, former senator and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose quarter-century in Washington — and the long list of stumbles, including a scandal over a secret email server — made her anathema for too many voters.
Mrs. Clinton had been seeking to make history as the first woman to win the White House, but instead the 70-year-old Mr. Trump made history of another sort, becoming the first person elected to the top job without having held a high government office or military command.
His victory upends a Washington establishment that voters said had lost touch with folks back home, and is a searing rebuke to President Obama, who had pleaded with voters that his hope-and-change agenda was at stake in this election.
Mr. Trump powered his campaign with a simple mantra to “Make America great again” and he vowed to live up to that charge as president, saying he would rebuild the country’s inner cities, improve care for veterans, double economic growth and forge alliances with other nations willing to work with him.
“We will get along with all other nations willing to get along with us,” he said. “We will seek common ground, not hostility, partnership, not conflict.”
After running a brash and eccentric campaign that his critics called divisive, he struck a note of openness and conciliation Wednesday morning in claiming victory.
“It is time for us to come together as one united people,” he said. “I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans.”
Mrs. Clinton did not speak, and in fact her campaign manager John Podesta had earlier signaled she wouldn’t concede the race. But as the numbers came in, her path to victory eroded and she made an about-face, making a call to Mr. Trump.
Recounting the call, Mr. Trump said he congratulated her on the campaign and on her time in government.
“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,” he said.
Republicans shed seats in the House and Senate but will still keep majorities in both chambers, giving Mr. Trump a head start on his agenda. Obamacare would be among the first targets, Democrats predicted, while Mr. Trump would be under pressure to build the border wall he made a staple of his campaign.
He’ll also get the chance to nominate the next Supreme Court justice, vindicating Republican senators’ decision to block Mr. Obama’s pick for nearly a year.
“This was a primal scream on the part of a lot of voters,” David Axelrod, the architect of Mr. Obama’s 2008 victory, said on CNN as Mr. Trump racked up win after win.
Mr. Trump flipped a number of states Mr. Obama won and rebuilt most of the coalition that powered President George W. Bush to wins in 2000 and 2004. He added Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to the GOP tally, but ceded Virginia, which went Democratic for the third straight election.
The map turned out to be surprisingly close to what Mr. Trump had predicted over the last few months, with the GOP proving competitive in rust-belt and Midwest states where he said the Obama economy was failing.
Exit polls also proved to be drastically off base Tuesday, predicting Mrs. Clinton and Democratic Senate candidates would win races that they ended up losing by wide margins.
Analysts said Mr. Trump tapped into white voters across the country who had felt ignored by Washington politicians and who turned out en masse to make themselves heard.
Still, it wasn’t clear how much of a honeymoon Mr. Trump would enjoy. Voters in both parties were decidedly unhappy with what one man in Pennsylvania called a “terrible choice of candidates.”
Those walking out of the polls were far more likely to be voting against someone rather than enthusiastic about their own pick.
“I think Donald Trump is an idiot,” Pam Lamonaca, a 63-year-old caregiver, said as she voted in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.
Mrs. Clinton sparked similar discontent.
“I just don’t trust Hillary Clinton. She’s not honest,” said Jane Ginsberg, 53, a housewife with four children. “I trust him more. My instincts tell me that.”
Perhaps most surprising was that Mrs. Clinton’s chance to make history as the first president was not on voters’ minds — and even hurt her with at least one Pennsylvania voter.
“I’m a woman and I don’t think any woman belongs in the presidency. It’s too heavy a load. There’s too much emotions,” said Fran Dicrescenza, 78. “Men don’t have those emotions.”
She said Mr. Trump was “too rough around the edges,” but she ended up pulling the lever for him hoping he’ll follow through on his pro-life promises.
“I would love to see a woman president, believe me. But not her,” said Dee Cleary, 60, a medical billing worker who cast her ballot for Mr. Trump at an education center in the Philadelphia suburbs in Delaware County.
Perhaps sensing the direction of the vote early on, Mr. Obama urged voters to accept the outcome.
“Remember, no matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning and America will still be the greatest nation on Earth,” the president said in a taped message broadcast on Twitter for Buzzfeed.
But the financial markets were not sold on the president’s optimism. Dow futures plummeted nearly 500 points at 10 p.m., as Mr. Trump’s chances seemed to be revived.
Mr. Trump’s victory will be seen as a massive rebuke of Mr. Obama, who carved out a forceful but controversial path as president, refusing to work with congressional Republicans on a host of issues, even as the GOP made gains on Capitol Hill.
Instead, Mr. Obama flexed his executive powers, attempting to grant a deportation amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants and to control U.S. greenhouse gas emissions through regulation.
Mr. Trump ran against that approach, promising to work with Congress and to rescind many of Mr. Obama’s executive actions.
Beyond that, however, it’s unclear what Mr. Trump’s agenda will be.
He said he would try to renegotiate trade deals and would strive for a massive tax break, but said he won’t touch Medicare or Social Security benefits — leaving the major drivers of government debt in place. He also vowed a massive infrastructure-building program, said the country would impose “extreme vetting” on visitors from countries connected to terrorism, and would halt Syrian refugees.
How much of those can clear Congress remains to be seen.
- Seth McLaughlin, Dave Boyer and Ben Wolfgang contributed to this article.