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Projected Trump Victory Brings Mixed Reactions From Asian-American Voters

Tuesday night's result elated some Asian Americans who supported Donald Trump, and shocked others who were disheartened by his improbable victory.
Image: The White House On Election Day
The sun rises near the White House on November 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. Americans today will choose between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as they go to the polls to vote for the next president of the United States.Zach Gibson / Getty Images

Republican candidate Donald Trump is projected to be the winner of Tuesday’s presidential race, a result that elated some Asian Americans who supported the real-estate mogul and shocked others who were disheartened by his improbable victory.

Sometime after 2 a.m. ET, NBC News reported that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton called Trump to concede.

Harmeet Dhillon, the Republican national committeewoman from California, was among the Trump supporters rooting for a win this November. She told NBC News Trump has managed to earn support from a broad coalition of Asian Americans, including Sikhs, like herself, and Muslim Americans.

“I have found supporters of Donald Trump for every walk of life in this campaign,” said Dhillon, who delivered a Sikh prayer at the Republican National Convention in July. “And what that means for America is that people are less and less voting on things like what race they are and where they come from, and more and more on where they want to go in the future as Americans.”

Some Muslim Americans were ecstatic over a Trump victory.

“I wanted him to win because he knows we can’t let refugees into this country, and he’s the only one that says that,” Mohamed El Mahalway, a New Jersey cab driver, told NBC News.

But Shabad Bharara, an 18-year-old Sikh-American student at American University, told NBC News he was “astounded and didn’t see the results coming at all.”

Asked about a Trump presidency, Bharara said, “We have to suck it up. We’ve done this before and it’s part of our history.”

As Trump supporters basked in the glow of their party’s win, Clinton’s supporters were left shocked and devastated by the former secretary of state’s loss. One of them was Steven Yeung, a Clinton delegate from Virginia.

“He’s going to be the president of the United States, so in that role, I think that all Americans will have to respect the seat, if not the person sitting in the seat,” Yeung told NBC News.

He added, “From now, we can only move forward and look to 2020 to win the seat."

Outside Rockefeller Center, at NBC News’ Democracy Plaza, hundreds gathered throughout the night inside a penned area to watch election results and projections in real time on large TV screens. Around 9 p.m. ET, after polls closed in a number of states, the crowd mostly cheered when calls were made for Clinton. Sprinkled among the many Clinton supporters were some who were backing Trump. They wore hats bearing his name and “Make America Great Again” sweatshirts.

Michelle Hoover, 38, of Manhattan, told NBC News she voted for Clinton because she agrees with Clinton's positions on maternity leave, equal pay for equal work, and Planned Parenthood.

But about the election, Hoover added, “I think that it was really disappointing that it has turned into a lesser-of-the-two-evils conversation.”

Hoover said being a first-generation Asian American had less to do with her identity than growing up in Pennsylvania, a battleground state that went to Trump. She said Pennsylvania is strong on tradition and has a deep history rooted in the coal and steel industries.

“I think Donald Trump can really speak to people who are harkening back to a time when things were better,” Hoover said.

David (Tian) Wang, Chinese Americans for Trump founder, told NBC News Tuesday afternoon that he spent Election Day morning in Los Angeles helping voters find polling places. He also drove seniors to voting sites in his car, Wang, who is not yet a citizen and cannot vote, said.

In Pennsylvania, Wang said he and his Chinese Americans for Trump members canvassed 8,000 homes across four counties the weekend before Election Day. For the 810 homes he himself and some of the volunteers in his car visited, support for Trump was strong, he said.

“We feel like we have a very good shot,” Wang said at the time, predicting ahead of Tuesday night that Trump would win Pennsylvania.

On Tuesday night, outside Rockefeller Center, Alphonse Gonzales, 21, of Brooklyn, told NBC News he cast his vote for Clinton. But, Gonzales said, he understood how Trump held appeal for some voters.

“I do think that Trump supporters, they do believe what their version of it is, but it’s not universal at all,” said Gonzales, a Filipino American.

Teirra Kamolvattanavith, a 22-year-old student from Thailand studying in New York, spoke about how people back home viewed the election.

“It’s kind of crazy how what everyone else, the rest of the world, thinks right now,” Kamolvattanavith told NBC News. “It’s kind of a joke to them, that it’s even a question who should win.”

Dhillon, the Trump supporter, said that Trump still has work to do even though he ran a great campaign.

“Yes, he does need to do some outreach and build bridges to all Americans and I think he’s going to do that,” she said. “I’m not concerned about that.”

She said Trump’s top priority should be filling the seat of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia with a conservative appointment, a confirmation that should be easier to secure with a House and Senate that will be Republican controlled. She said Trump should do the same if Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg retires.

“I’m pretty confident that just like he’s done in his own corporations, he’s going to be able to appoint people to top positions on the basis of merit,” she said. “They will include minorities, and Asians — I’m very confident about that.”

Jason Chung, Trump’s coalitions senior advisor, told NBC News that the American people have spoken and want a new direction for all Americans, including Asians. “He spoke about bringing all Americans together, all ethnicities, and he will do that," Chung said.

Asked whether there was anything Trump needed to improve on in outreach to Asian Americans, Chung said he’d comment on that after the president-elect begins his transition.

“We kind of want to enjoy it before we figure out what we have to do tomorrow,” he said.

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Correction: An earlier version of this article included a misspelling in Shabad Bharara's name.