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Donald Trump's campaign prepared two speeches for Election Night on Tuesday — but more time was spent crafting a draft to concede rather than claim victory, sources told NBC News.
While the campaign had expressed confidence in public, their own data showed only a narrow path to the 270 electorates needed to win the White House. The senior team felt pressure to live up to the moment and acknowledge the outcome of a potential defeat by Hillary Clinton after the GOP nominee’s comments about a “rigged” system and whether he would accept the results was widely derided by Democrats and members of his own party.
The first draft of a victory speech was no longer just a placeholder but needed revisions to reflect the scope of the night, sources said. That draft was revised in real-time when a victory was within sight.
Trump's running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and writer and policy adviser Steve Miller, huddled with Trump to find the right tone and message after an upset that many inside Trump Tower in New York had once considered improbable.
Through the early evening, much of the focus had been on Florida vote tallies and reviewing data county by county. The Trump war room grew excited as state after state fell in their favor.
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As the electoral count grew for Trump and the night grew so late, advisers inside Trump Tower wanted their candidate to speak amid the wave of emotion and energy — but they hoped to hit 270 first.
Rumblings of a Trump appearance were also an attempt to hasten a consensus on the election from the networks if that were possible, sources said.
It was approaching 2:30 a.m. ET, when a phone call from Clinton's longtime aide, Huma Abedin, reached Team Trump.
The call was unexpected. Once Abedin could link Clinton with Trump, that effectively signaled an end to the campaigning, sources said. Trump and the former secretary of state spoke.
Clinton, the sources said, was described as “gracious.”