The race, originally predicted to be a strong victory for Hillary Clinton by many outlets, including The New York Times, FiveThirtyEight and the Huffington Post, soon devolved into a string of close contests.
Buoyed by a strong showing from his Republican base, Trump captured commanding leads in many swing states, while Clinton failed to inspire enough black and Latino voters to counter Trump’s supporters.
This was especially true in typical Democratic strongholds like Michigan and Wisconsin, part of the Rust Belt. Trump’s anti-free trade message seemingly struck a chord with many voters, while black voters had a low turnout in Detroit.
Kirk Bell, N.C. spokesperson for the Trump campaign, said the turnout from the Rust Belt states comes from blue collar workers who have suffered from NAFTA’s economic impacts.
“There are parts of those states that economically have been destroyed and you see it in North Carolina, you see it in the textile industry, you see it in the furniture industry,” Bell said. “... So I think his message speaks to those who are disenfranchised and wanted a change from where 1 percent growth is just not gonna be adequate.”
In North Carolina — considered one of the most crucial swing states in the election — Trump won 49.90 percent to Clinton’s 46.13 percent.
Bell said he was amazed at the turnout for Trump.
“Whenever you’re going around the state, each and every corner that I have been through with rallies — Mr. Trump, with Gov. Pence, you saw an excitement that I hadn’t seen in other presidential campaigns that I’ve been involved in before,” Bell said.
“And it was all income levels, all parts of our society and the state, all diversities.”
Rob Schofield, policy director of N.C. Policy Watch, said in an email that the Democrats failed to turn out the votes they need.
“They seem to have failed thus far to capture the anti-establishment vote which is making it hard for them,” Schofield said. “Lots of motivated older white men are making the races very close nationally and here in North Carolina.”
Howard Fierman, a Trump campaign volunteer in the state, said Trump motivated him to vote for the first time.
“I’m the demographic you’ve heard about but perhaps never seen — I’m 70 and I have never voted until 12 days ago,” Fierman said. “For the first time in my life, there’s been a candidate worthy of my vote.”
While enthusiasm started high at the North Carolina Democratic Party election party, it waned as unfavorable results for the party came in throughout the night.
By 9:40 p.m., the crowd was growing quiet, and by 11:30 p.m., half of the room was abandoned.
“I’m going to feel devastated for our country if she loses,” said Sarah Ewing, a Democratic voter from Raleigh.
But to others, this election was part of a larger process.
“At the end of the day, it’s the voters that decide,” said Brenda Pollard, a delegate for Clinton.
“But we have worked as hard as we can, and we’re proud of that.”
This is an ongoing story. Check dailytarheel.com for updates all day.