“Donald Trump is going to be our president,” Hillary Clinton said from the New Yorker hotel, a historic Art Deco tower in Midtown. “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”
It was the first time that Clinton publicly acknowledged that businessman Donald Trump had been voted the next president of the United States, a prospect that just weeks ago she had urged the country to consider with dread.
“I know how disappointed you feel because I feel it, too,” said Clinton. “This is painful and it will be for a long time.”
She took the stage with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, her daughter, Chelsea Clinton, and her son-in-law, Marc Mezvinsky, to an extended standing ovation from her emotional staff.
Earlier, a glassy-eyed Sen. Tim Kaine praised his running mate and noted that she had won the popular vote.
“I’m proud of Hillary Clinton because she has been and is a great history-maker in everything she has done,” Kaine said.
He ended his brief introduction on a note of defiance, promising to continue their fight for children and families. “Hillary and I know well the wisdom and the words of William Faulkner: ‘They killed us, but they ain’t whooped us yet!” he said.
As election results rolled in on Tuesday, Clinton watched in Manhattan from a suite in the Peninsula Hotels as her would-be electoral advantage disappeared and Trump performed stronger than expected in a series of upper Midwestern states that had been Democratic for a generation.
At around 2 a.m., Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta addressed a deflated crowd gathered at the Jacob Javits Center underneath a sparkling glass ceiling and told them that the race is too close to call, and that Clinton would not appear. Within the hour, however, the race was called for Trump and Clinton conceded.
At nearly 4 a.m., Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook wrote to staff thanking them.
“Campaigns are incredibly hard, and sometimes the results don’t reflect the merit, work, and commitment that goes into them. This is one of those times,” Mook wrote. “But as I disappointed as I am in the results, I remain amazed at the way every person on this campaign stepped up to each challenge and gave their all. You each have earned my respect and gratitude.”
Trump’s victory was a historic defeat by an outsider of one of the most well-funded and well-known political figures. And for Democrats, it means voters made clear that they wanted a new direction and a dramatic break from the status quo.
It represents a potential seismic change in the way Democrats win election: states like Michigan and Wisconsin, which had been reliably blue, went for Trump. Clinton also lost Pennsylvania, a state Democrats have won since 1992.
“We have seen our nation is more deeply divide than we thought,” Clinton said. “But I still believe in America, and I always will.”
Clinton’s loss also means that the prospect of the country’s first female president would have to be deferred once again. “To all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams,” Clinton said.
As a light rain fell Wednesday morning, a few harried campaign staffers corralled reporters and photographers on the sidewalk on one side of the hotel doors and supporters and Clinton staff on the other.
At 8:30 a.m., two hours ahead of the scheduled start of the event, Clinton’s top image maker, Greg Hale, the man responsible for sets, backdrops and all manner of atmospherics for her biggest rallies, wandered alone on the hotel’s third floor. The kind of picture-perfect setting he was in charge of ensuring seemed far removed. In the hotel ballroom where Clinton would speak, one floor down, workers had not yet erected a riser for cameras. The final setting was an unadorned lectern in front of more than a half a dozen American flags and a teleprompter.
As Clinton’s senior staff entered the room with strained smiles, they gave each other long hugs. Moments before Clinton took the stage, Mook, Podesta and top policy adviser Jake Sullivan were greeted with cheers and applause as they took their seats in the front row.