Donald J. Trump, the flamboyant businessman who transformed himself from real-estate mogul to reality television star to populist politician, was elected the 45th president of the United States in a stunning upset.
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Trump, who has never before held elective office, had remained confident of his ability to win the hard-fought race, predicting a surprise victory throughout the eventful final days of the turbulent two-year 2016 presidential campaign. The results were a surprise after all major polls and polling aggregators during the 48 hours before the election favored Trump’s rival, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
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Throughout Tuesday night, Trump gained ground in major and swing states, leading over Clinton throughout. In New York, where both candidates were holding their election night parties, the mood palpably switched between the two, as news came in of the Republican candidate's state-by-state win.
It was the final act of an unpredictable, turbulent presidential campaign, the likes of which America has never seen before. After Trump announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015, he was best known to Americans as a reality TV show star in “The Apprentice,” where he put aspiring businesspeople and, later, celebrities, through their paces, usually ending their ambitions with his catchphrase: “You’re fired.”
Trump’s bid for the Republican nomination was initially ridiculed, as politicians and pundits alike were confident he would eventually be shunted aside by one of his experienced rivals for the nomination. This belief grew as Trump made unprecedented declarations and proposals such as building a wall between the United States and Mexico, to keep out illegal Mexican immigrants whom he characterized as dangerous criminals, and to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the United States.
But his poll numbers swelled higher with every controversial statement he made. It became clear that Trump had – intentionally or not – tapped into an undercurrent of economic and racially charged anger and frustration among a large segment of his party and the country at large. Their fury was aimed not only at Democrats, but establishment Republicans who embraced issues like immigration reform and global trade.
Trump became the hero of this group, reflecting the boiling resentment of the white middle- and lower-class, promising them he would “be their voice” and, if elected, would “Make America Great Again.” On July 20, he officially left all of his 16 rivals in the dust, grabbing the GOP nomination, forcing a reluctant party’s leadership to accept him as their candidate.
Trump’s subsequent general election battle with Clinton was marked by bitter and ugly accusations. The biggest crisis of his campaign took place in early October, with the release of a 2005 tape in which he admitted to sexually assaulting women. After publicly denying the behavior he boasted about on the tape, a flood of women from his past publicly charged that he had made unwanted advances.
The vast majority of American Jews, who are liberal-leaning, never supported Trump, and a large number of Republican Jewish leaders were put off by his behavior early in his campaign when he said would be “neutral” on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also told Republican Jewish donors, “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”
Ultimately, though, he won the backing of one influential Republican Jewish mega donor – casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. With the assistance of his longtime lawyers and his Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner, Trump boosted his image as Israel’s champion, pushing for a GOP platform that was, in some ways, further right than the Israeli government.
His message successfully appealed to a significant segment of the Orthodox Jewish community, which was attracted to his hawkish rhetoric when it came to law and order as well as foreign policy. On his final day of campaigning, in the swing state of Florida, Trump vowed to “stand strong with the State of Israel in their fight against Islamic terrorists.”