Going into election day, Donald Trump was the underdog: the polls and the betting markets both said so.
But Trump proved the doubters wrong, just as he had promised, delivering a stinging defeat to Hillary Clinton after a long and often bitter campaign.
How to win
Okay, first thing’s first: let’s deal with the basics of how choosing a president works:
- To win the election, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump needed to pick up at least 270 (out of a total of 538) votes in what’s called the electoral college.
- Each state of the US is allocated a certain number of those 538 critical votes; you can see the full breakdown of those votes at the bottom of your screen now.
- Whichever candidate wins a state gets all of that state’s votes (as always in these things, yes, there are exceptions: in Maine and Nebraska, electoral college votes can be split two-to-one).
The blue wall
Alright, now we can start looking at which states backed Mrs Clinton and which chose Mr Trump.
First up, let’s deal with the “blue wall”, the states that essentially always go to the Democrats and where Hillary Clinton could count her chickens even before a vote was cast.
The safe Democratic states this affects are: Vermont; Connecticut; Delaware; District of Columbia; Illinois; Maryland; Massachusetts; New Jersey; Rhode Island; New York; California; Hawaii; Oregon; and Washington.
The red wall
But the Democrats aren’t the only ones with a swag of safe states. The Republicans have 16 states where they’re basically assured of victory.
The safe Republican states we’re allocating here are: Indiana; Kentucky; West Virginia; Alabama; Kansas; Missouri; Oklahoma; Arkansas; Louisiana; Nebraska; North Dakota; South Dakota; Wyoming; Montana; Idaho; and Alaska.
Trump won basically all the states Mitt Romney won in 2012
Aside from those safest-of-the-safe states, Mr Trump was able to effectively firewall the states that Mitt Romney won in his unsuccessful challenge against Barack Obama in 2012.
The only exception to that, so far, is Arizona: Mr Trump is ahead there but it hasn’t been called for him.
These states don’t get Trump into a winning position, of course. Remember: Romney lost.
But they provided the core platform for his win.
Parts of Clinton’s firewall held up
To carve a path to victory, Mrs Clinton needed to hold most of the states Mr Obama won in 2012.
In many parts of the country, she was able to do just that — even in places like New Mexico, Colorado and Virginia, where she had been less favoured in the polls than Mr Obama.
The Trump campaign chased votes in those states, hoping to flip them back to the Republicans this time around. But Mrs Clinton managed to firewall them.
She also won at least three of the four votes on offer in Maine, and carried the swing state of Nevada.
The keys to the White House
What really won the day for Donald Trump were five states that had helped elect Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections, but which Mr Trump managed to flip into the red column.
One of the most critical was Florida: it’s a large swing state, accounting for 29 votes in the electoral college.
As such, it had always been viewed as a key plank for any Trump victory. If Mrs Clinton could hold Florida, Mr Trump seemed to have few paths to victory.
The other four states Mr Trump flipped back into the Republican column were all in the north-east and the US’s “rust belt”, an area where he performed much more strongly than Mr Romney did in 2012.
With soaring support among whites, particularly those without college educations, and from voters outside major cities, Mr Trump was able to win:
- Pennsylvania, which last went to a Republican in 1988. That was George Bush Snr.
- And Wisconsin, which hadn’t fallen to the Republicans since Ronald Reagan won it in 1984.
And that was enough to get Donald J Trump over the 270 electoral college votes he needed.
Trump poised to extend his lead
Mr Trump is already across the line as president-elect, but three states are yet to be officially declared.
He is ahead of Hillary Clinton in two of those — Michigan and Arizona.
Mrs Clinton leads in New Hampshire, which will likely deliver her another four votes.
With those votes allocated, we see Trump ending up with an electoral college victory of 306 to Clinton’s 232.
That will be the Democratic party’s worst electoral college result since Michael Dukakis in 1988 — even though Mrs Clinton will win the nationwide popular vote.