Hillary Clinton called her stunning loss to Donald Trump in the presidential race a setback that is painful and “will be for a long time,” but she struck a conciliatory tone in her concession speech Wednesday, saying that her supporters “owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.”
“This is not the outcome we wanted or worked so hard for, and I’m sorry we did not win this election for the values we share and vision we hold for our country,” Clinton said in her speech at The New Yorker hotel, about nine hours after she phoned Trump to congratulate him.
Addressing her supporters, Clinton said, “You represent the best of America; being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”
“I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it too,” Clinton said. “This is painful, and it will be for a long time but I want you to remember this: Our campaign was never about one person or one election. It was about the country we love and building an America that’s inclusive and big-hearted. I still believe in America, always will, and if you do, you must accept this result and look to the future.”
She said that “our nation is more deeply divided than we thought,” but quickly added: “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and a chance to lead.”
It was a bitter and shocking defeat for the Democrat, who won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote because she couldn’t maintain an alignment of Rust Belt states and Florida that backed Democratic President Barack Obama. Polls had shown Clinton with a lead, although narrow, in states such as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, going into Election Day and her staff seemed confident on the campaign trail.
As the results rolled in, state after state in the Democrats’ “Blue Wall” flipped to red, catapulting Trump.
In a year of the political outsider and nationalist movements in Europe, the outcome here made Trump the first candidate since General Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 to win the presidency without having held a previous elective office.
And it all but spelled the end of Clinton’s political career, and her attempt to become the nation’s first female president.
“And to all the women and especially the young women who put their faith in this campaign and in me, I want you to know nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion,” Clinton said, moving to her conclusion. “I know we have still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling, but someday someone will and hopefully sooner than we think we might right now.”
In fact, the historic nature of her quest didn’t sway enough voters, according to various exit polls. The New York Times, Morning Consult and others said that Clinton earned approximately 54 percent of the female vote, according to exit polls, just about offsetting the 53 percent of the male vote Trump won but not enough to pull her through in states that were close.
Perhaps more telling: Trump beat Clinton by more than 10 percentage points among voters who made their decision in October or later, according to The New York Times exit polls.
In short, the undecided voters clearly broke for the Republican, choosing to change the status quo.
It was an outcome that Democrats hadn’t expected as the polls started to close around the country.
Clinton conceded to Trump in a phone call at about 2:30 a.m. but put off her concession speech until late Wednesday morning.
In introducing Clinton, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), her running mate, praised her for winning the popular vote and said the nation made it “uniquely difficult for a woman to win major public office.” He also vowed that Democrats would continue to fight for their causes and issues.
Quoting novelist William Faulkner, Kaine said: “They kilt us. But they ain’t whupped us yet.”
Inside of the hotel where Clinton spoke, supporters described a somber mood — many had red and puffy eyes from crying, others continued to wipe tears.
“She didn’t lose, we lost, America lost,” said Alicia de-Jong-Davis, who served as an at-large Democratic National Convention delegate.
Davis wore a pin that read “Madame President” and said Clinton’s calls for Americans to keep an open mind about Trump’s presidency were evidence of her class.
“The same class that she showed in 2008 when she conceded to Barack Obama, we saw here today, even though her opponent has not been very honorable,” Davis said.
Claire Lucas, a Clinton fundraiser from Washington D.C. said while supporters in the room were “saddened” by the election results, Clinton’s speech encouraged them to continue working on behalf of the campaign’s principles.
“We’re emboldened to take the wonderful values of this campaign and of her life’s work and keep them moving forward,” Lucas said.
Asked about Trump, Lucas said: “I have an open mind — that’s the only way this country can move forward.”
With Laura Figueroa