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white house 2016

Couldn't stay awake? Here are the defining moments of a truly seismic US election night

The polls didn’t see this one coming. No one saw this one coming.

2016 Election Trump Supporters of Donald Trump at tonight's election night rally John Locher John Locher

FOR A LONG time, we’ve been hearing that Donald Trump couldn’t win the White House.

Or at least he couldn’t win it without difficulty. The electoral college maths was all against him.

Well, all that has gone out the window now. These are the moments that defined what feels like a truly epochal election night:

The swing states come into play

Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Pennsylvania. These were not states that Trump was expected to win. It was one of the reasons that all predictions were against him – so many hurdles had to be overcome in states where Trump was given little chance. Wisconsin for example, and its 10 electoral votes. Trump lost his own Republican primary there heavily to Ted Cruz.

From early on on election night it became clear that these states were not only in play, but that Trump had a serious chance of winning them. Clinton barely scraped over the line in Virginia. Even Pennsylvania, home to hugely pro-Hillary Philadelphia, wasn’t a given. As the Washington Post described it – the path for Trump to reach the White House went from narrow to wide open in a matter of minutes.

Scaling every fence

2016 Election Iowa Voting Kirsten Bosch of Des Moines, Iowa, gets help from her six-year old daughter Parker while voting in the US election yesterday Charlie Neibergall Charlie Neibergall

Trump started out the evening with four must-win states: Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa. He won them all. No-one saw that coming, particularly given early voting had suggested surges for Clinton in the likes of Florida. Every obstacle placed in Trump’s way was scaled with ease.

The flipside of this saw Clinton not only losing states where she had hoped to be competitive, but being pushed to the pin of her collar in states where she should have been a shoo-in. Two weeks before the campaign, so certain was everyone that election was in the bag for the Democrats it was suggested Clinton might focus on separate states to try and help her party in its fight to regain control of the US Senate. That seems like aeons ago now.

Breaking the firewall

Then there was the so-called Clinton Firewall. These were four bigger states that were seen as definites for the Clinton campaign – Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Virginia, Michigan, – and three smaller ones – Nevada, New Hampshire, and New Mexico. And it quickly became clear that Trump was competing strongly in all of them.

He lost Virginia narrowly. He won Nevada. And then, the biggest upset of all, he won Pennsylvania. At 7.30am Irish time Donald Trump won Wisconsin to become the next President of the United States.

At 2am Irish time Hillary Clinton tweeted what seemed a spectacularly downcast message (above). Perhaps the writing was on the wall.

Pre-voting versus on the day

2016 Election Voting New York Bebeto Matthews Bebeto Matthews

From early on it became clear that early voting, which by common consensus had favoured Hillary Clinton in the likes of Florida, was being dwarfed by those who voted on the day.

Much had been made of the Latino and Hispanic surge for Clinton. But it seems the ‘Shy Trumpers’, those voting Trump who had either kept their own counsel or flat-out misled pollsters about how they were planning to vote, have taken an even bigger hand.

And they’ve voted for their candidate almost across the board. What that means for the future is bound to be picked down to the bones in the coming days.

A popular president

The New York Times election monitor first predicted Donald Trump as a likely president at 2.30am Irish time. At first it was indicated that Trump would most likely triumph in the Electoral College but lose the popular vote. Now it transpires that this may not be the case at all.

Trump could now take both. It’s looking like a comprehensive victory, if not quite a landslide.

Retaining the House and the Senate

2016 Election Senate Rubio Republican Senator for Florida Marco Rubio speaks to the media after retaining his seat Wilfredo Lee Wilfredo Lee

There was a lot more at stake last night than just the US presidency. The Republican party now looks like it will manage to maintain control of both houses of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate.

By contrast, Barack Obama has spent the last six years of his presidency in a stalemate with a hostile Congress, which was more than capable of stopping anything that he wished to achieve.

Trump would have no such issues. He has a full mandate to do whatever he likes (certainly for at least two years) in his presidency. Whether or not he would make good on all his campaign promises only time will tell. But he has the support to do it.

Read: Republicans look set to hold House of Representatives and Senate

Read: Markets wobble as Trump surges in polls

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