‘Absolutely overjoyed’: Shock victory blows away euphoric Trump supporters
The hotel ballroom broke into chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A” as Donald Trump came onto the balcony above the crowd with his family shortly before 3am. His rapt supporters celebrated the real estate tycoon’s shock victory, convinced their president-elect can deliver the change they believe America desperately needs.
“I’m blown away, I think it’s absolutely amazing,” said Paul Spagnoletti, a New Jersey business owner in the ballroom for the victory speech. “It’s an amazing win, it’s a coup.”
All eyes had been on the flag-decked stage, where his running mate Mike Pence had introduced him, but Trump loves nothing more than a grand entrance and keeping his supporters – and the media – guessing. Instead, the spotlight suddenly snapped to right where America’s soon-to-be 45th president stood on the balcony with his entire family as the theme music to Hollywood movie Air Force One blared out.
Watch: Trump receives concession call from Clinton
Dressed in a dark suit and red tie, he waved and smiled, slowly making his way down to the stage.
“I’ve just received a call from Secretary Clinton. She congratulated us – it’s about us – on our victory,” he said.
The crowd erupted at the mention of “us”, waving mini US flags or red “Make America Great Again” trucker hats and catcalling as their new first family beamed.
“Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division,” Trump told the crowd, pledging to work with Democrats in office.
“I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans,” Trump declared, during a conciliatory address in which he paid tribute to his defeated opponent and thanked his staff. “Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country.”
Just 24 hours earlier, at his final rallies, Trump had castigated Clinton as the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency. But Trump displayed a presidential demeanour in his victory lap that advisers said was necessary, and supporters in the generally well-heeled crowd lapped up.
“I’m absolutely overjoyed. I’ve waited for this for many years, I’m incredibly happy,” said Carl Lopp, who owns a telecoms company.
Trump’s photogenic family stood behind him – his Slovenian-born third wife Melania in a one-shoulder cream dress; their young son Barron; and his grown daughters Ivanka and Tiffany in blue, together with Ivanka’s husband Jared Kushner, one of his father-in-law’s closest advisers.
When it was all over, supporters could barely believe it. Trump had defied the political establishment, the mass mobilisation of the Democratic Party, a popular president throwing his weight behind Clinton and a galaxy of superstars performing at her campaign events.
It was not initially clear that Trump would declare victory. Supporters started leaving before Fox News announced he was on the way to the venue and before US media called the race. But then Fox News declared the real estate magnate was past the magic number with 274 electoral votes. The room exploded.
Accompanying Trump were most of the aides and advisers who have worked tirelessly against all odds to secure his election. There was campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, credited with helping inculcate some sense of discipline in the final weeks of his erratic campaign.
There was a smiling Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the head of his transition team disgraced last week by the conviction of two former aides for causing a major traffic snarl-up to wreck political revenge on a Democrat.
Admirers believe a Trump presidency will usher in a new dawn for the working American, fed up with the political elite in Washington and seduced by his promising of bringing back jobs from overseas.
“He’s going to give life to their dreams and I think that’s what’s so critically important here,” said Lopp, 61.
Supporters trashed the American media, which largely predicted a Clinton win, dismissing it as untrustworthy and biased in favour of the Democratic former secretary of state.
While cries of “Lock her up!” have deafened Trump rallies for months, and were yelled in the ballroom before the Republican nominee arrived, Sharon Smith said she felt “sad” for Clinton.
“Her whole career, she’s wanted to do this for so long. Anybody who loses is going to be hurt,” said the 73-year-old from Nebraska.
On stage, Trump promised a “great economic plan,” and said America would no longer settle for anything less than the best.
“This political stuff is tough and it’s nasty,” he joked, thanking his “wonderful” parents, siblings, wife and children.