Republican businessman Donald Trump won the key battleground state of Florida on Tuesday, defeating former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after a fierce campaign that saw a record turnout in the state.
The Sunshine State victory later helped to propel him into the White House.
Cheers went up when it was announced Trump had won Florida in a conference room at the Hilton Miami Airport, where a small group of Republicans had gathered to watch the presidential returns after Sen. Marco Rubio’s victory party.
“Liberty, liberty, liberty,” shouted Carlos Lumpuy as others hugged and shook hands.
Lumpuy, a 59-year-old Miami resident who owns a Washington, D.C., custodial firm, said a Trump presidency would “change the world” by advancing freedom, cutting the country’s debt and putting more Americans to work.
“What we’ve witnessed tonight is a revolution like none since Lincoln,” Lumpuy said.
Both Trump and Clinton, the Democratic nominee, pegged their campaign fortunes to Florida where nearly 9.5 million voters cast ballots.
Clinton and Trump and their allies spent in excess of $120 million dollars in advertising in the lead-up to Election Day, according to Kantar Media’s political ad tracker. More money was spent on television advertising in Florida than any other state in the nation.
The two nominees — as well as their top backers — repeatedly made campaign swings through the state to boost turnout. Clinton lost Florida even though President Barack Obama campaigned on her behalf in the Sunshine State.
Trump’s victory snaps a streak by Democratic presidential candidates. Obama carried the state in both 2008 and 2012. GOP President George W. Bush won Florida during his 2004 re-election bid.
Trump’s win appeared to stun Clinton’s supporters.
“I think it was kind of a surprise because we were expecting so much more,” said Joana Vargas, 24, who watching results at a bar in Orlando. “Obama had won the state back in 2012. So I think it’s really depressing that a lot of people didn’t go out there and vote just because they thought it was a joke or whatever or they didn’t feel the need to.”
Trish Collins, a 39-year-old human resources manager, watched results at a St. Petersburg bar in silence. She is a Clinton supporter.
“I did not walk in tonight and think it was going to be this close,” she said. “I’m leaving here feeling very nervous and sad.”
Trump, a part-time resident of the state, easily won the state’s Republican presidential primary in March, when he crushed Rubio, forcing him from the presidential race.
While some top Republicans, including Gov. Rick Scott, endorsed Trump, he had trouble winning over some Republicans, including those living in populous Miami-Dade County. Rubio did endorse his former rival but then opted against campaigning with him in the closing weeks before Election Day.
Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who ran Obama’s 2008 Florida campaign and was a top 2012 adviser, said Trump ran up high margins in mid-size suburban counties that swamped traditional strongholds in South Florida. He said Democrats attacked Trump for being a racist and xenophobic without sufficiently addressing fears white, middle-class voters have about the economy.
“If you’re in your mid-40s and you’re looking at not having a pension, and you haven’t gotten a pay raise in eight years, and your taxes are going up and your friends are losing their jobs, yeah, it’s really scary,” Schale said.
Trump supporters Dylan Thompson, 18, and Daniel Guillen, 20, said they weren’t surprised their candidate won Florida because of his get out the vote effort.
“The last two weeks they were hiring $18 to $25 an hour, just go out and knock doors,” said Thompson, a student at Florida Southwestern College. “Then the last debate, he killed it,” added Guillen, who attends the University of Miami.
More on how he won Florida
Here’s a look at results of exit polling conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.
There was a sizable gap in age and race between Trump and Clinton voters, and white and older voters helped push Trump to a razor-thin victory.
Trump led with voters age 45 and older, and almost two-thirds of white voters in Florida preferred Trump. Trumpalso had an advantage with men.
Clinton had a slight lead with Florida women, and voters under age 45, particularly millennials, supported Clinton. Almost 9 in 10 African-Americans in Florida favored Clinton.
There was a significant divide between Cuban voters and non-Cuban Hispanics in Florida, the state with the nation’s third-largest Hispanic population. Trump led with Cuban voters, but more almost three-quarters of non-Cuban Hispanics preferred Clinton. Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric has turned off many Hispanics, but Trumpappealed to Cuban voters in September by saying he would reverse the deal Democratic President Barack Obama made with Cuba to reopen diplomatic relations — unless Cuba expands political freedoms.
Trump led with independent male voters, although the candidates split independent women. Self-described moderates favored Clinton.
Clinton led Floridians with advanced degrees, and those only with high school diplomas. Voters with only a college degree leaned toward Trump, and he did especially well with white men and women who were college-educated. The candidates were evenly divided among voters who had some college.
Trump led voters earning $100,000 or more a year, those making less than $50,000 a year favored Clinton. Trump had a slight advantage with income-earners in between.
Trump had a sizable advantage with Protestants, and a lead with Catholics, but Clinton was favored by voters from other religions and those who didn’t identify with a religion.
Almost half of Floridians picked the economy as their top concern. Terrorism was second, with around a quarter of Florida voters picking it as the most important issue facing the nation.
Less than 1 in 10 voters picked immigration as their top issue in Florida, a state where 20 percent of residents were born outside the U.S. Floridians overwhelmingly felt illegal immigrants should be offered to a chance to apply for legal status instead of being deported.
A plurality of Floridians believe trade creates more jobs, though more than a third said it takes jobs away.
Around two-thirds of Florida voters agreed that climate change is a serious problem. South Florida is among the regions of the nation most vulnerable to sea-levels rising.
A little under half of Florida voters said they were dissatisfied, but not angry, with the way federal government was working. More than a quarter of Florida voters said they were angry with the way the federal government was working, and two-thirds of those voters supported Trump. About 1 in 5 voters said they were satisfied with the federal government, and Clinton led almost 4 in 5 of those voters.
Slightly more than half of Florida voters had an unfavorable view of Clinton, and almost 3 in 5 voters had an unfavorable view of Trump.
A third of voters viewed Clinton as honest, and only slight more viewed Trump as honest. More than half of voters said Clinton was qualified to be president, while less than half viewed Trump as qualified.
In winning Florida’s U.S. Senate seat race, Republican incumbent Marco Rubio led male voters. Neither Rubio nor his Democratic challenger, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, had an advantage with female voters. Murphy led among voters under 45, while Rubio was the favorite for voters 45 years and older.
Rubio was the overwhelming favorite of white voters, while 4 in every 5 African-American voters preferred Murphy. The candidates split the Hispanic vote, although two-thirds of Cubans preferred Rubio, whose parents are from Cuba.
The National Election Pool exit poll conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research was conducted at 50 polling places among a total of 3,997 Election Day voters, as well as 1,279 absentee or early voters interviewed by telephone. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.