NEW YORK -- Donald J. Trump will become the 45th president of the United States and its commander-in-chief, a stunning achievement for a complete novice to governing whose campaign was written off by the nation's political class.
He defeated Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major party and a former first lady, senator from New York and secretary of state, to win at least 289 electoral college votes. She nevertheless won the popular vote by roughly 200,000 ballots nationwide.
Trump's election may be the greatest political upset of the modern era, after the Republican nominee trailed national and state-by-state polls for over 100 consecutive days. The New York real estate tycoon and reality television star is the first president-elect without any experience in public service, either in politics or in the military.
As an insurgent, he campaigned to ban all Muslims from entering the US homeland, build a wall on the nation's southern border with Mexico, shred trade deals and longstanding diplomatic agreements, soften policy on Russia and conduct a ruthless war against Islamists across the Middle East.
His victory was a shocking rebuke to the outgoing president, Barack Obama, who warned for months that Trump is temperamentally unfit for the office and an existential threat to the very foundations of the world's oldest democratic republic.
But Obama's successor vowed to work to unite a deeply divided country upon assuming the presidency.
"It’s time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together," Trump said. "It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me."
"The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer," said the president-elect. "We will deal fairly with everyone — all people, and all other nations."
Clinton conceded the race in a phone call with Trump in the early hours of Wednesday morning, and an emotional secretary of state spoke publicly of her defeat later in the day, acknowledging her loss would sting for some time to come.
"We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought," Clinton told supporters and campaign aides at a hotel ballroom in New York, apologizing to them for coming up short. But "we must accept this result and then look to the future. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead."
"This is painful, and it will be for a long time," she said, adding in a message to young Americans: "Never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it."She emphasized the importance of respecting
America's "cherished" peaceful transition of power. But she said there were more fights to come to protect the rights that she felt came under assault during a presidential race that largely divided the nation along lines of race, ethnicity and class.
Obama, too, made good on his promise to work toward a peaceful transition to a Trump administration, delivering remarks from the Rose Garden of the White House alongside Vice President Joe Biden.
"It is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences. But remember, eight years ago, President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences," Obama said. "We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country."
"The peaceful transition of power is a hallmark of our democracy," he added. "We're actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage."
Despite 60% of Americans viewing him negatively and 63% considering him unqualified to serve, according to national exit poll data, Trump swept virtually every competitive state in the race. His early evening victory in Florida began the domino effect before North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania ultimately fell into his column. Pennsylvania has not voted Republican since 1988; Wisconsin, since 1984.
Republicans also held on to both houses of Congress, providing the new president with a sweeping governing majority as he enters the White House. Paul Ryan, the House speaker, congratulated Trump for his "stunning" victory on Wednesday morning."This is the most incredible political feat I have seen in my lifetime," Ryan said. "They don't feel heard. And they don't feel represented by those in office."
While Trump was able to substantially expand his electoral college map, both candidates ultimately relied on familiar constituencies: White voters mostly voted for him, and a coalition of minority groups went with her. But Trump's voters turned out in massive numbers– 70% of the electorate identified as white on Tuesday. Clinton's did not in the numbers she had expected, or needed for her to drive up the necessary voter totals in critical urban areas across several battleground states.
The two candidates offered the American public an unusually stark choice– not simply one between a Republican and a Democrat, but one between a man who is fundamentally an outsider, without experience in politics, and a woman who has spent her entire adult life in government.
Trump, 70, is the country's oldest president-elect. A billionaire from Queens who built off of his father's career in New York real estate, he came to represent among his supporters an opportunity to shatter Washington into pieces.
To his detractors, he is an illiberal demagogue, a sexist and a racist, who has exploited the country's divisions for political gain.
Throughout his unlikely campaign, Trump lobbed unprecedented attacks not just at his political opponents, but at veterans, women who accused him of sexual assault, immigrants, a Gold Star family and those who identify as Muslim. Announcing his presidential campaign, he accused Mexico of sending criminals and rapists over the border.
Clinton tried to cast herself as a pragmatic centrist: An experienced former first lady, senator and secretary of state. But her opponents consider her the consummate politician, willing to say or do anything to retain political power, corrupted by wealth and influence.
Her decision to operate a private e-mail server while at the State Department marked the launch of her campaign and dogged her throughout, despite the Federal Bureau of Investigation clearing her of any wrongdoing after a yearlong investigation into her practices.
Exit polls showed voters dissatisfied with both candidates, hopeful for a change and seeking strong leadership. But more than anything else, Americans expressed glee that this presidential election is finally over.
Foreign leaders flooded the candidate with congratulations, including Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. "President-elect Trump, my friend, congratulations," Netanyahu said. "You are a great friend of Israel. Over the years, you have expressed your support consistently, and I greatly appreciate it. I look forward to working with you to advance security, prosperity and peace."
Rivlin offered congratulations to "all the American people, who have once again showed the world it is the greatest democracy."
Leadership across the Western world sent well wishes, although concern began to percolate: France's foreign minister, for one, said Trump's election raises "essential" questions in the diplomatic world.
European and Asian markets were jolted by the news, but the US stock market did not suffer as expected, after stock futures plummeted overnight.
One of the first world leaders to congratulate Trump was Russian President Vladimir Putin, who in a speech expressed the hope that his new administration would return relations to a better place from their current "crisis state."
Throughout the election, US intelligence agencies accused Moscow of attempting to interfere in the nation's electoral process, in favor of the victor.