At the Hilton Midtown, where Trump would hold his election-night event, a Republican strategist who had worked on the Dole campaign, two Bush campaigns, the McCain campaign, and the Romney campaign had little confidence Trump would win, but felt sure he would exceed Romney. Even a close loss would have value, he explained, because it would likely force the Beltway Republicans who refused to help Trump to look into the mirror and ask whether they could have done more to elect a GOP president.
That’s the kind of thinking that was going on in the early evening of the most extraordinary election night in U.S. history. Trump supporters wanted Trump to win — that’s why they were there — but there were doubts galore.
“He’s got to draw an inside straight,” one man told me, before hesitating a moment and adding, “I’ve drawn an inside straight before.” Maybe it might happen again, although he didn’t really like the odds.
Even Jeff Sessions, the Alabama senator whose early endorsement was a huge boost for Trump, seemed unsure about a Trump victory. Sessions said that in the last few days he visited Trump county headquarters in Arizona and Virginia. He was struck by the intensity of the support there. “The feelings of the American public are legitimate, and the politicians need to hear it,” Sessions told me. “This isn’t going away. This isn’t a one-time thing.”