Last night, after almost two years of campaigning, the US finally voted to elect its next president. By voting for Trump for the office of President, while returning Republican majorities in both the House and the Senate, the American electorate has handed control of all three key US decision-making bodies to the Republican Party, leaving the party of incumbent President Barack Obama at the margins of power.
Trump’s Path to Victory
Trump had trailed in the pre-election polls, and was widely considered an underdog in terms of the all-important US electoral college system, which awards electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis by state. But he stunned such expectations by sweeping many of the swing states, including the crucial state of Florida. Here, despite the Clinton campaign’s successful mobilisation of Hispanic voters, Trump was able to narrowly triumph thanks to impressive turnout in the more conservative pan-handle region of the state.
However, he went further still, eating into Clinton’s so-called ‘firewall’ of blue-leaning states, which had been expected to insulate her against underperformance in the swing states. Trump was able to build up huge margins amongst white blue collar workers in traditionally Democratic states in the industrial mid-west, such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, and thereby add them to his column. It was these victories that propelled Trump over the finish line of 270 electoral votes. At the time of writing, Trump also had a lead in a further traditionally Democratic state, Michigan, although the final result was not clear.
Consequences for Europe
For Europe, two particular issues present themselves in Trump’s electoral platform. Firstly, the issue of trade, which Trump has made a centrepiece of his campaign, promising to rip up the US’ existing trade deals. Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric appears to signal tough times ahead for the negotiation of the TTIP, the long-pursued trade deal between the US and the EU, which is already mired in difficulties.
A further issue presented by Trump’s Presidency for Europe could be the issue of security. Trump has repeatedly questioned the validity of NATO in the course of the campaign, while also refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons in Europe. In the weeks to come the foreign policy priorities of Trump will be outlined in more detail.
A whole new Trump?
In his victory speech, now President-elect Trump sought to portray himself in a unifying light, in a way that stood in contrast to his highly divisive campaign. He promised to be a President ‘for all Americans,’ which marked a contrast with his rhetoric during the campaign. He also extended kind words to Clinton, to whom he said America owed ‘a debt of gratitude.’ Whether his unifying approach will last will become apparent in the weeks to come.