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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times




Donald Trump pulled off a crucial a victory in Florida late Tuesday and was positioned to win the presidency as he dramatically out-performed expectations in other battleground states.

The extraordinary night culminated an election that while expected to be close, had long favored Hillary Clinton, who sought to marshal the same diverse coalition that provided Barack Obama with back-to-back victories.

Instead Trump, 70, was propelled by overwhelming support from white voters drawn to his promise to bring back jobs and a war on politics as usual that struck at his own party as well as Democrats.

Clinton had hoped to win Florida and its 29 electoral votes, which would have choked off Trump’s path to the White House.

And going into Election Day, signs were positive for her. Obama won Florida twice, though his 2012 victory was by a mere 74,000 votes, or 0.9 percent.

Late Tuesday, Trump was leading by about 133,000 votes, or slightly more than 1 percent.

Trump, who long insisted polls and experts underestimated his strength, remained steadfast that a “silent majority” would emerge to shake the foundations of a political system he deemed corrupt. He attacked Clinton, 69, as the epitome of that system.

Exit polls showed vast numbers of voters wanted change.

“Today is our Independence Day, the day the American working class is going to strike back, finally,” the businessman and former reality TV star said in the early hours of Tuesday at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Trump’s Florida victory was built on dominance in the rural parts of Florida but also by remarkable strength in the coveted I-4 corridor — particularly in counties with the largest shares of white voters.

Mitt Romney narrowly won the St. Petersburg to Daytona Beach region four years ago, but Trump did significantly better than Romney in several key counties, according to preliminary results.

The Republican won Pinellas County, doing about 7 percentage points better than Romney, who lost Pinellas.

He did 4 percentage points better in Pasco County, and he won Volusia County by 13 percentage points, while Romney won it by 1.

In the broader Tampa Bay media market, Trump won 150,000 votes more than Romney did four years ago, according to a Democratic strategist.

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2016 12:19am]


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