Donald Trump just won the most shocking presidential victory in American history.
Like many analysts, I wrongly predicted the outcome. Unlike some, I did not predict a Hillary Clinton blowout win, but I did think she would win Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Trump won all three.
It is now clear that Donald Trump was a better candidate than Hillary Clinton.
He created enormous enthusiasm and she created almost none.
She won 6.6 million fewer votes than Obama did in 2012 after four years of population growth and millions of newly registered voters.
As Democratic operative Ed Espinoza points out, Hillary over-performed Obama’s 2012 vote percentage in only four states: California, Arizona, Washington state and Texas.
That missing Democratic vote margin in Milwaukee alone, which was 40,000 votes, provided more than enough for Trump to win the state by 25,000 votes.
A smart friend of mine said Trump gave blue collar workers a unique opportunity to vote for both their economic interests and their social values at the same time. I think that’s right.
Trump understood the economic anxiety that millions of Americans were feeling, and he spoke directly to those “forgotten people” in a way no previous Republican candidate had.
As President-elect, he won the presidency without a majority of the vote, and likely lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by at least 200,000 votes. But he won the Electoral College and while his margins were tight, he won it decisively in the only way that matters.
I think there were two crucial factors that contributed to Trump’s unexpected win.
First, the FBI announcement that Hillary Clinton may be under investigation again came at a time when early voting was already underway, and that news may have altered the voting behavior of as many as one-third of all early voters. It put Hillary on defense, united Republicans, and began a virtuous cycle for Trump in the closing 10 days of the campaign.
Second, letters from health care providers went out to all Americans in the past two weeks announcing rate increases for health insurance under Obamacare. The timing could not have been worse for Democrats—and Trump smartly seized that issue in the closing days.
It must be said that Donald Trump faced more withering scrutiny and criticism than any candidate in the history of the country.
He brought some of that on himself, surely, but he was willing to withstand that pressure because he was motivated by his own self-belief and desire to make America great again.
The lesson of this extraordinary campaign is that real enthusiasm trumps a solid ground game. Donald Trump won enough votes to win enough states, and he did it because his supporters would not be deterred.
As one observer noted: “The media takes Trump literally, but not seriously. Trump’s supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”
Now, with 71 days until Inauguration, President-elect Trump faces an incredible opportunity.
He has a solid majority in the U.S. House, and at least 52 GOP seats in the U.S. Senate. The GOP will fully unite behind him.
In his first 100 days, he should seek to repeal and replace Obamacare, pass a major border security bill, reform the tax code, and confirm a conservative Supreme Court Justice. That would be a great start.
He will now begin building his senior staff and Cabinet, and his transition effort has been professionally run by Heritage Foundation veterans Ed Feulner and Becky Norton Dunlop for many months. I have no doubt that he will be surrounded by excellent, professional, serious people.
No person is fully prepared to be President of the United States. There is always a steep learning curve.
Donald Trump now must deliver on the promises he made as a candidate, to the extent those promises are truly possible.
For this entire campaign, others sought to judge him by his words.
Now, he will be judged by his actions.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.
Matt Mackowiak is syndicated columnist, an Austin-based Republican consultant, and a former Capitol Hill and Bush administration aide.