NEW YORK (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump vowed Wednesday to unify a deeply divided nation, having scored a stunning victory backed by extraordinary support from working-class America.
The tough-talking New York billionaire claimed victories in the nation’s premier battleground states, but his appeal across the industrial Midwest — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, in particular — sealed a victory that defied pre-election polls and every expectation of the political establishment.
“I say it is time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump told supporters gathered in a Manhattan hotel near his Trump Tower campaign headquarters.
“For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so we can work together and unify our great country,” he said, the stage crowded with family and his most loyal allies.
Trump addressed the nation after sweeping most of the nation’s top battlegrounds — and created some new ones.
He won Ohio, Florida and North Carolina. He also took down the Democratic Party’s “blue firewall” by scoring victories in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, states that haven’t supported a Republican presidential candidate since 1988 and 1984 respectively.
Trump’s win shocked political professionals and global financial markets alike. But it created pure joy inside the hotel ballroom where hundreds of Trump supporters waited for hours for his celebration speech. They hugged each other, chanted “USA!” and bellowed “God bless America” at the top of their lungs.
House Speaker Paul Ryan called Trump Tuesday night to congratulate him on his “incredible victory.”
“We are eager to work hand-in-hand with the new administration to advance an agenda to improve the lives of the American people,” Ryan, who had a rocky relationship with Trump at times, said in a statement. “This has been a great night for our party, and now we must turn our focus to bringing the country together.”
While Democrat Hillary Clinton was trying to make history as the first female president, Trump made a different kind of history as one of the least experienced presidential candidates ever elected.
A businessman and former reality TV star, he is a true political outsider in a way that marks a sharp break from past presidents.
Some were branded resume lightweights: ex-governors George W. Bush of Texas, Bill Clinton of Arkansas and Ronald Reagan of California, among them. But they had served somewhere — whether in Congress, states or in a leadership post in an administration.
Trump’s outsider status ultimately helped him politically far more than it hurt.
His political inexperience allowed him to cast himself as a change agent just as frustrated voters in both parties were hungry for change. The message was particularly effective against Clinton, a fixture in public service over the last three decades.
Ever the showman, his strategy relied almost exclusively on massive rallies to connect with voters, ignoring the grunt work that typically fuels successful campaigns.
Pre-election polls suggested he was the least popular presidential nominee in the modern era.
Yet there were signs that Republicans who previously vowed never to support Trump were willing to give him a chance moving forward.
“If Trump wins, he does deserve the benefit of the doubt because he was right on his chances and so many of us were wrong,” tweeted conservative leader Erick Erickson.
Peoples reported from Washington. AP writer Julie Bykowicz in Washington contributed to this report.