America woke up Wednesday to a new and unexpected reality — Donald J. Trump will be the next president of the United States.
In a resounding rebuke to the political establishment, the Manhattan mogul and reality TV star was elected the 45th commander in chief following one of the most bitter and wildly unpredictable campaigns in the nation’s history.
Trump, in an upset for the ages, defeated former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by running the table in battleground states across the country — from Florida and North Carolina to Ohio and Pennsylvania.
"The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer"
He declared victory Tuesday night before a large crowd of enthusiastic supporters, pledging to help unite the country after his rancorous battle with the Democratic nominee.
"Now it's time for America to bind the wounds of division," Trump said at the Midtown Hilton in New York City. "I say it is time for us to come together as one united people."
He congratulated Clinton on a "very, very hard-fought campaign."
Trump said Clinton called him sometime after 2 a.m. ET to concede the race. But she did not address her supporters until several hours later at a Manhattan hotel, admitting "this is painful and it will be for a long time."
Related: Clinton: 'I Still Believe in America and I Always Will'
"I hope that he will be a successful president for all Americans," she said of Trump. "We must accept this result and look to the future. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead."
President Barack Obama, who campaigned furiously for Clinton, congratulated Trump by telephone early Wednesday and invited him to a meeting at the White House on Thursday.
"It is no secret that the president-elect and I have some significant difference," Obama said later in the Rose Garden, noting that he also had "significant differences" with his predecessor, George W. Bush.
"We are all now rooting for his success," Obama said of Trump.
Earlier, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told TODAY that Obama was very welcoming.
“It was a very warm conversation,” Conway said. “They resolved to work together, which is exactly what this country needs … to help unify and heal the country.”
Still, it is likely to be an awkward face-to-face conversation — Trump was behind the so-called birther campaign designed to discredit Obama by questioning whether he was born in the United States.
Trump's bitter Republican rival, Jeb Bush, also congratulated him — via Twitter — and said he and his wife Columba "will pray for you in the days and months to come."
Trump, 70, triumphed across the South, Plains and the Rust Belt, where the Republican candidate's mix of economic populism and freewheeling bravado resonated with millions of white working-class voters alienated by globalization and cultural change.
"The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer," Trump said during his victory speech.
Clinton, 69, who entered Election Day with a modest lead in most national polls, saw her narrow advantage fizzle away in crucial states such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina. She carried traditional Democratic strongholds in the Northeast, the West and her home state of Illinois, earning her at least 218 electoral votes.
But it was not enough. And now President-elect Trump is poised to be the first person to be sworn in as commander in chief without having held elected office or served in the U.S. Armed Forces.
His unexpected victory also dashed the dreams of millions of women who had hoped Clinton would shatter the ultimate glass ceiling and become the nation's first female U.S. president.
As of 2 p.m. ET, Clinton was actually ahead of Trump in votes, with 59,626,052 votes compared to her rival, who had 59,423,391. That arithmetic put Clinton on track to possibly become the fifth presidential candidate to win the popular vote but lose the election.
Despite Trump's electoral win, there were still several states where the victor had not been decided. Here's the current tally, according to NBC News projections:
- Clinton wins: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine (three of four electoral votes), Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington state and Washington, D.C.
- Trump wins: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida (apparent winner), Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Montana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska (four of five electoral votes), North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
- Too close to call: Arizona, Michigan and New Hampshire.
Trump's victory gives the GOP a lock on power in Washington. NBC News projects that Republicans will retain control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
He won despite the fact that early exit polls showed that large majorities of voters had an unfavorable view of both him and Clinton.
About six in 10 voters — 61 percent — said they had a dim view of Trump while only 37 percent viewed him favorably. A majority of voters — 54 percent — said they had an unfavorable view of the former secretary of state, and another 44 percent viewed her favorably.
Trump's victory capped a brutal campaign that left his reputation — and that of his rival — in shreds.
Considered at best a long-shot, Trump kicked off his presidential bid last year by vowing to build a wall on the border to keep Mexicans out of the U.S. and quickly rose to the top of a crowded Republican field.
He also pledged to keep Muslims out of the country and persevered despite a series of self-inflicted errors like attacking the family of a fallen soldier and the intense scrutiny of his charitable foundation, real estate holdings and Trump University.
The release of audio that featured Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women, and the flurry of women who came forward accusing him of sexual misconduct, threatened to derail his chances in the final weeks of the election.
Meanwhile, Clinton entered the race as a Democratic favorite who was pulled to the left by a strong primary challenge from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But the controversy over her use of a private email server while secretary of state hung like a dark cloud over her campaign. Questions over whether she compromised classified secrets continued to dog her until just days before voters went to the polls.
Heading into Election Day, Clinton was leading Trump by 4 points in the last NBC/Wall Street Journal poll taken before Tuesday. By that evening, it became clear that her narrow advantage was a mirage.