Don­ald Trump’s win shocks even true believ­ers

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - By­ron York Colum­nist By­ron York is chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner.

As elec­tion evening be­gan in Mid­town Man­hat­tan, peo­ple who wanted Don­ald Trump to win — loyal Re­pub­li­cans who risked the scorn of con­ser­va­tive crit­ics to work hard on Trump’s be­half — were not only not sure he would win, they were ac­tively try­ing to imag­ine the best-case sce­nario for his de­feat.

About 4:30 in the af­ter­noon, I ran into a well-con­nected Repub­li­can op­er­a­tive on Sixth Av­enue. She thought Florida didn’t look good — Trump would have to make up too many votes to counter a heavy His­panic turnout. But North Carolina looked good, as did Ohio and Iowa. All that was OK, but with­out Florida — no Trump vic­tory.

We talked about whether Trump would sur­pass 206 elec­toral votes, which was Mitt Rom­ney’s los­ing to­tal in 2012. The an­swer was yes — just win­ning Ohio would do that trick. And beat­ing Rom­ney might quiet some of those Nev­erTrumpers who pre­dicted Trump would lead the GOP to an ut­ter blowout loss of his­toric pro­por­tions.

But then the Repub­li­can ex­pressed doubt about her doubts.

“I’m more ner­vous than I was in 2012,” she said. Back then, at 4:30 in Bos­ton, she knew full well that Rom­ney would lose. This time, al­though the road looked tough for Trump, there was enough of an air of un­pre­dictabil­ity about the re­sults that, even though she thought Trump would fal­ter, she wasn’t nearly as sure as four years ago.

At the Hil­ton Mid­town, where Trump would hold his elec­tion­night event, a Repub­li­can strate­gist who had worked on the Dole cam­paign, two Bush cam­paigns, the McCain cam­paign, and the Rom­ney cam­paign had lit­tle con­fi­dence Trump would win, but felt sure he would ex­ceed Rom­ney. Even a close loss would have value, he ex­plained, be­cause it would likely force the Belt­way Re­pub­li­cans who re­fused to help Trump to look into the mir­ror and ask whether they could have done more to elect a GOP pres­i­dent.

That’s the kind of think­ing that was go­ing on in the early evening of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary elec­tion night in U.S. his­tory. Trump sup­port­ers wanted Trump to win — that’s why they were there — but there were doubts ga­lore.

Even Jeff Ses­sions, the Alabama se­na­tor whose early en­dorse­ment was a huge boost for Trump, seemed un­sure about a Trump vic­tory. Ses­sions said that in the last few days he vis­ited Trump county head­quar­ters in Ari­zona and Vir­ginia. He was struck by the in­ten­sity of the sup­port there. “The feel­ings of the Amer­i­can pub­lic are le­git­i­mate, and the politi­cians need to hear it,” Ses­sions told me. “This isn’t go­ing away. This isn’t a one­time thing.”

The im­pli­ca­tion was that, even if Trump lost, Trump’s fo­cus on work­ing Amer­i­cans would go on.

By about 10:00 p.m., the news be­gan to brighten: Florida was look­ing bet­ter. So was North Carolina. And Ohio.

Ev­ery­one’s nerves set­tled as the min­utes ticked by. The big TVs all around were play­ing Fox News, which had Trump at 254 elec­toral votes — just 11 away from vic­tory.

By the time Trump walked on­stage to de­liver a grace­ful vic­tory speech — it was nearly 3:00 a.m. — the As­so­ci­ated Press and other me­dia or­ga­ni­za­tions had called the race, pro­claim­ing him the pres­i­dent-elect.

Yes, there were some peo­ple there who said they knew all along he would win. But Trump’s sup­port­ers had spent months look­ing at the same polls as ev­ery­body else. When it turned out those polls were wrong, and their man was rac­ing to vic­tory, Tues­day night and early Wed­nes­day morn­ing made for a very, very happy shock.

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