The conventional wisdom entering the 2016 presidential campaign was that the 45th president of the United States would be either Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton — the heirs of America’s two most powerful political dynasties.
On early Wednesday morning, a real-estate mogul and star of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump, became the nation’s president-elect and the all-but-certain successor to President Barack Obama.
The process of upending the predictive favourites began roughly 18 months back, with Trump taking on Bush, a former Florida governor, in the Republican primary. He made him his primary fodder. He labelled him as “low-energy.”
The moniker stuck. And seemingly, there was nothing the unheralded amount of money Bush was able to raise from the donor class could do to change that when Republican voters went to the polls.
Most importantly, Trump was able to paint Bush as the ultimate member of the establishment. An out-of-touch elite. The exact person whom the voters Trump courted were so vehemently against. And Trump’s voters proved to be a large block.
Bush, the frontrunner when Trump entered the fray, quickly dropped behind the new frontrunner. He was out of the race after three primaries. Bush’s father and brother were the 41st and 43rd presidents of the US, and Trump caused him to barely make it through the onset of primary voting.
It was a sign of things to come.
Trump’s repeated use of nicknames for his opponents proved effective against others — whether it was “Liddle” Marco Rubio, the Florida senator who was another early primary favourite, or “Lyin'” Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who came closest to Trump but still fell short.
And it kept working.
Upon winning the nomination came a head-to-head matchup with Clinton, an overwhelming favourite. She was a senator, secretary of state, and wife of the popular 42nd president of the US. She had nearly every advantage on her side.
But Trump went on to paint her as “Crooked” Hillary. “Crooked,” as in she was bought and paid for by donors, and had their interests at heart first. A member of the the same establishment elite as Bush. Trump painted himself as the ultimate outsider, someone who he insisted was not beholden to anyone.
She was someone also who, like Cruz, could not be trusted, in the words of Trump. That, more than anything, insulated Trump from being overcome by his litany of controversies, such as when a leaked tape showed him boasting of being able to make unwanted sexual advances on women because he was famous.
And that message won with enough people by early Wednesday morning to secure him the presidency, defy polls, forecasts, and all of the conventional wisdom. In doing so, he defeated both the Bushes and the Clintons, two of the most powerful forces to ever appear in American politics.
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