The Cable

Trump Stuns With Too-Close-to-Call Election Night Challenge

The mood at Hillary Clinton’s “victory party” turns increasingly anxious as supporters face growing chance the GOP nominee stands a shot to be next commander in chief.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08:  Three women watch voting results at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 8, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 08: Three women watch voting results at Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's election night event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center November 8, 2016 in New York City. Clinton is running against Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump to be the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — At the massive Manhattan convention center where Democrat Hillary Clinton gathered supporters for what her campaign billed as a “victory party,” the glass ceiling began to reflect an increasingly anxious crowd Tuesday night, rather than a metaphor for the former secretary of state striving to become the first woman president of the United States.

Clinton’s Republican rival Donald Trump mounted a stunning challenge in key battleground states, pulling in massive Electoral College hauls such as Florida and Ohio approaching 11:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, hours past polls closing.

The feeling of dread was summed up by Jacqueline Rado and Elissa Epstein, two New Yorkers who expressed disbelief that voters could entrust Trump, who has no experience in public office or foreign policy, with national security.

“I think I can speak for a lot of people that the idea that Trump is even close … is really showing the anger in this country, that they could really want a man who is so unpolished and so undignified and so unqualified to get this close,” Epstein told Foreign Policy. “It’s sort of horrifying.”

The businessman-turned-politician who shook Republican national security officials and global leaders alike with his controversial neo-isolationist “America First” foreign policy outpaced even the expectations of his own campaign, which privately acknowledged on Election Day his path to the White House was near nonexistent.

Clinton, one of the more experienced foreign-policy candidates to run for the White House, portrayed her Republican opponent, a businessman who has never held public office, as dangerously incoherent and temperamentally unfit for the Oval Office. But the close results late into Tuesday night indicated the national security argument hadn’t inspired millions of American voters eager for the change agent they saw in the big-haired, bigger-mouthed New York real estate magnate.

Reporters watching results come in on large screens below let slip expletives, Clinton surrogates disappeared from the networks, and cheers from the crowd at the Javits Center in New York as states were called for the Democratic nominee were few and far between.

Media and Clinton supporters alike cheered, clapped, and audibly exhaled when networks projected later Tuesday night that the former secretary of state would win Virginia, a must-win battleground state in which Clinton held a sizable, consistent lead coming into Election Day.

“Are we fired up?” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked the Clinton-supporting crowd outside on a projection screen, before launching into a speech against Trump’s divisive language against immigrants.

But, not before more than one reporter muttered in response: “Nope.”

The attendees were dead silent when more key swing states, North Carolina and then Ohio and Florida, were later called for Trump, and he closed in on the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

Photo credit: Win McNamee/ Getty

Molly O’Toole is a senior reporter at Foreign Policy, covering immigration, refugees, and national security. She was FP’s sole 2016 presidential campaign reporter, on the trail from New Hampshire to Nevada. Previously, she covered the politics of national security for Atlantic Media’s Defense One, where she reported from Congress, the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department. Before that, she was a news editor at the Huffington Post. Molly has also reported on national and international politics for Reuters, the Nation, The Associated Press, and Newsweek International, among others, from Washington, New York, Mexico City, and London. She received her dual master’s degree in journalism and international relations from New York University and her bachelor’s from Cornell University and in 2016 was a grant recipient of the International Women’s Media Foundation. She will always be a Californian. @mollymotoole

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola