By Steve Holland and John Whitesides(Reuters) – Republican Donald Trump stunned the world by defeating heavily favoured rival Hillary Clinton in the U.S. presidential election, ending eight years of Democratic control of the White House and sending America on a new, uncertain path.
A wealthy real estate developer and former reality TV host, Trump rode a wave of anger toward Washington insiders to win Tuesday’s White House race against Clinton, the Democratic candidate whose gold-plated establishment resume included stints as a first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
Trump’s victory marked a crushing end to Clinton’s second quest to become the first woman president. She also failed in a White House bid in 2008.
“Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead,” Clinton, 69, said in a concession speech in New York on Wednesday morning, joined by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and daughter Chelsea.
Speaking in front of a row of American flags, she told supporters her loss was painful “and it will be for a long time,” and that she had offered to work with Trump on behalf of the nation.
President Barack Obama, who campaigned hard against Trump, invited him to the White House for a meeting on Thursday.
“We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country,” Obama said at the White House, saying he and his staff would work with Trump to ensure a successful transition. “We are not Democrats first, we are not Republicans first, we are Americans first.”
Trailing in public opinion polls for months, Trump pulled off a major surprise and collected enough of the 270 state-by-state electoral votes needed to win, taking battleground states where presidential elections are traditionally decided, U.S. television networks projected.
His four-year term begins on Jan. 20 and he will enjoy Republican majorities in both chambers of the U.S. Congress. Television networks projected the party would retain control of the 100-seat Senate and the House of Representatives, where all 435 seats were up for grabs.
“He just earned a mandate and we now just have a unified Republican government,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters in Wisconsin, crediting Trump’s Election Day momentum with helping Republican victories that maintained the party’s control of Congress.
Worried that a Trump victory could cause economic and global uncertainty, investors fled risky global assets.
The U.S. dollar, Mexican peso and world stocks fell on Wednesday but fears of the kind of shock that wiped trillions of dollars off world markets after Britain’s “Brexit” vote in June failed to materialize immediately.
But U.S. stocks were little changed on Wednesday, rebounding from stunning overnight losses fuelled by the election result. Sectors such as banking and steel that appeared poised to benefit from a Trump presidency led the charge.
Trump appeared with his family early on Wednesday before cheering supporters in a New York hotel ballroom, saying it was time to heal the divisions caused by the campaign and find common ground after a campaign that exposed deep differences among Americans.
“It is time for us to come together as one united people,” Trump said. “I will be president for all Americans.”
He said he had received a call from Clinton to congratulate him on the win and praised her for her service and for a hard-fought campaign.
His comments were an abrupt departure from his campaign trail rhetoric in which he repeatedly slammed Clinton as “crooked” amid supporters’ chants of “lock her up.”
But Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, on Wednesday did not rule out the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton’s past conduct, a threat Trump made in an election debate last month.
Despite losing the state-by-state electoral battle that determines the U.S. presidency, Clinton narrowly led Trump in the nationwide popular vote, according to U.S. media tallies.
Republican National Committee senior strategist Sean Spicer told MSNBC that Trump and his senior aides were meeting at Trump Tower in New York on Wednesday to “start the proper transition” to a Trump presidency.
Prevailing in a race that opinion polls had clearly forecast as favouring Clinton, Trump won avid support among white non-college educated workers with his promise to be the “greatest jobs president that God ever created.”
“Such a beautiful and important evening! The forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again. We will all come together as never before,” Trump wrote on Twitter early on Wednesday.
In his victory speech, he said he had a great economic plan, would embark on a project to rebuild American infrastructure and would double U.S. economic growth.
Trump, who at 70 will be the oldest first-term U.S. president, came out on top after a bitter and divisive campaign that focused largely on the character of the candidates and whether they could be trusted in the Oval Office.
The presidency will be Trump’s first elected office, and it remains to be seen how he will work with Congress. During the campaign Trump was the target of sharp disapproval, not just from Democrats but from many in his own party.
GOOD NEWS FOR RUSSIA
Foreign leaders pledged to work with Trump but some officials expressed alarm that the vote could mark the end of an era in which Washington promoted democratic values and was seen by its allies as a guarantor of peace.
During the campaign, Trump expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, questioned central tenets of the NATO military alliance and suggested that Japan and South Korea should develop nuclear weapons to shoulder their own defence burden.
Russia and Putin appeared to be winners from Trump’s victory. Defying years of U.S. foreign policy orthodoxy, the Republican has promised much warmer relations with Moscow, despite Russia’s intervention in the Syrian civil war and its seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region.
Russia’s parliament erupted in applause after a lawmaker announced that Trump had been elected, and Putin told foreign ambassadors he was ready to fully restore ties with Washington.
“It is not an easy path but we are ready to do our part and do everything to return Russian and American relations to a stable path of development,” Putin said.
Russia is hoping that improved relations could yield an elusive prize: the lifting or easing of sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union to punish Moscow for its 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he hoped to reach “new heights” in bilateral ties under Trump. Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing and Washington shared responsibility for promoting global development and prosperity.
Iran urged Trump to stay committed to the nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers. Several authoritarian and right-wing leaders hailed Trump’s victory.
Other officials, some of them with senior roles in government, took the unusual step of denouncing the outcome, calling it a worrying signal for liberal democracy and tolerance in the world.
“Trump is the pioneer of a new authoritarian and chauvinist international movement. He is also a warning for us,” German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said in an interview with the Funke newspaper group.
U.S. neighbour Mexico was pitched into deep uncertainty by the victory for Trump, who has often accused it of stealing U.S. jobs and sending criminals across the border.
Trump wants to rewrite international trade deals to reduce trade deficits and has taken positions that raise the possibility of damaging relations with America’s most trusted allies in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
Trump campaigned on a pledge to take the country on a more isolationist, protectionist “America First” path.
Trump survived a series of blows on the campaign, many of them self-inflicted, including the emergence in October of a 2005 video in which he boasted about making unwanted sexual advances on women. He apologised but within days, several women emerged to say he had groped them, allegations he denied. He was judged the loser of all three presidential debates with Clinton.
A Reuters/Ipsos national Election Day poll offered some clues to the outcome. It found Clinton badly underperformed expectations with women, winning their vote by only about 2 percentage points.
And while she won Hispanics, black and young voters, Clinton did not win those groups by greater margins than Obama did in 2012. Younger blacks did not support Clinton like they did Obama, as she won eight of 10 black voters between the ages of 35 and 54. Obama won almost 100 percent of those voters in 2012.
During the campaign, Trump said he would “make America great again” through the force of his personality, negotiating skill and business acumen. He proposed refusing entry to the United States of people from war-torn Middle Eastern countries, a modified version of an earlier proposed ban on Muslims.
His volatile nature, frequent insults and unorthodox proposals led to campaign feuds with a long list of people, including Muslims, the disabled, Republican U.S. Senator John McCain, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, the family of a slain Muslim-American soldier, a Miss Universe winner and a federal judge of Mexican heritage.
A largely anti-Trump crowd of about 400 to 500 people gathered outside the White House after his victory, many shocked or in tears. Protests against Trump also broke out overnight in downtown Oakland, California, where demonstrators set ablaze a likeness of him, smashed store front windows and set garbage and tires on fire.
Throughout his campaign, Trump described a dark America that had been knocked to its knees by China, Mexico, Russia and Islamic State. The American dream was dead, he said, smothered by malevolent business interests and corrupt politicians, and he alone could revive it.
He has vowed to win economic concessions from China and to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants.
His triumph was a rebuke to Obama, a Democrat who spent weeks flying around the country to campaign against him, repeatedly casting doubt on his suitability for the White House. Obama will hand over the office to Trump after serving the maximum eight years allowed by law.
Trump promises to push Congress to repeal Obama’s signature healthcare law and to reverse his plan to curb greenhouse emissions mainly from coal-fired power plants.
Even though the FBI found no grounds for criminal charges after a probe into her use of a private email server rather than a government system while she was secretary of state, the issue allowed critics to raise doubts about her integrity. Hacked emails also showed a cozy relationship between her State Department and donors to her family’s Clinton Foundation charity.
(Writing by John Whitesides and Alistair Bell; Additional reporting by Amanda Becker, Emily Stephenson and Christopher Kahn in New York, Letitia Stein in St. Petersburg, Florida, Luciana Lopez in Miami, Colleen Jenkins in Winston-Salem and Kim Palmer in Ohio; Editing by Frances Kerry and Will Dunham)