Donald Trump has won the U.S. presidency in a shocking political upset, backing his prediction that an underground movement and a series of victories in key states would catch pollsters and pundits by surprise.
The Associated Press and other national media outlets made the call around 2:30 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday.
Trump's opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, conceded the election in a private call to the business mogul turned Republican politician, he told a crowd of supporters gathered in New York City. Trump said the nation owed her a debt for her decades of public service.
Clinton did not immediately make any public remarks. Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, told supporters around 2 a.m. that too many states were still too close to call.
Trump, a 70-year-old former reality TV star, will become the first commander in chief in decades who has neither served in the military nor previously held public office. Trump has less governing experience than former Presidents William Howard Taft and Herbert Hoover, who shared that resume quirk but had served as high-ranking political appointees.
Trump ran on a platform of government reform and political upheaval, painting Clinton — and even some Republican critics — as establishment bureaucrats spoiled by greed and corruption.
He has also vowed to more strictly control immigration into the country, at various times vowing to block Muslims from entering the country, and promised to re-examine a host of foreign military alliances to ensure that American taxpayers aren’t footing too much of the cost of fighting terrorism overseas.
During his speech to supporters Wednesday, Trump pledged to get along with nations that want to get along with the United States.
"We will deal fairly with everyone, all people and all other nations," he said. "… We'll seek partnership, not conflict."
Numerous high-profile military and intelligence figures opposed Trump's candidacy, even without endorsing his opponents, calling him a potentially unstable individual who should not be given access to the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Despite that, Trump was popular among active-duty military members, with more than 40 percent backing him as the nation's next commander in chief in the October poll conducted by Military Times with Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families.
Clinton’s history of controversies, and specifically her improper use of a private email server during her time as secretary of State, seemed to sway many military members and civilian voters to Trump’s favor.
Trump’s own military-themed controversies on the campaign trail didn’t hurt him as much. He openly fought with the parents of a soldier killed in Iraq, ridiculed Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain for being captured by the enemy during Vietnam, and repeatedly said he was smarter than many of the generals currently leading the military.
But he has also promised to boost military funding and restructure the Department of Veterans Affairs, themes that resonated with conservatives who have criticized President Barack Obama’s insistence on pairing defense funding with non-military spending.
"We will, finally, take care of our great veterans, who've been so loyal," Trump vowed Wednesday. "The time I've spent with them during this campaign has been a great honor."
But Trump has been coy about how he’ll pay for such expansive initiatives, and critics have laughed off his promises to repeal spending caps that have ensnarled congressional business for the last five years.
Trump has vowed to intensify America’s fight against Islamic State group militants, but also pledged to have a less interventionist foreign policy as president, blasting Clinton and President Barack Obama for interfering too much in civil wars with little benefit to this country.
And he has sent mixed messages on America’s potential future relationship with Russia, vowing to deal harshly with President Vladimir Putin but also indicating that the one-time Cold War foe could be an invaluable ally in the fight against ISIS.
Trump’s running mate, vice-president-elect Mike Pence, is the current governor of Indiana who previously served in Congress, and was seen by many Republican supporters as a more traditional politician who could help Trump make the transition into the White House.
Pence is also a Blue Star father. His son is a lieutenant in the Marine Corps, training to be a pilot.
In introducing Trump to supporters Wednesday, Pence said "The American people have spoken and the American people have elected their new champion."
The election also delivered Trump Republican majorities in the Senate and the House, giving his party control of both the legislative and executive branches for at least the next two years after he takes office in January.
Military Times chief editor Andrew deGrandpre contributed to this report.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.