When Randy Price saw the close results for Virginia on election night, he knew something was going to happen.
And when Ohio, Florida and North Carolina filed in behind Republican President-elect Donald Trump, murky waters began to clear.
The American people had spoken.
“Not only did they want change. They wanted change in a very big way,” Price, who is the chairman of the Lee County Republicans Executive Committee, said.
What some thought would be a swift election night and Hillary Clinton victory turned into a late-night nail-biter ending only at about 1:30 a.m. CT when a Wisconsin victory clinched the 270 electoral votes Trump needed to win the presidency.
“I don’t think you have to be around politics very much to understand that I think the Clinton team knew in the last 72 hours that they were in trouble,” Price said.
Neglecting voters in Michigan and Wisconsin until the last minute showed that the Clinton campaign “took those people for granted,” he said.
“And those people sent a very loud message last night,” Price noted. If Clinton won the presidency, Price and others had no doubt it would have been another term of the Obama administration.
“The average American working person was not going to be a bit better off in four years from now if she was elected president than they are today,” Price said.
He expected a tight race, but what distinguished this election was how Trump resonated with Americans.
“People understood what he was saying because they understood it was going to affect them personally,” Price said. “It wasn’t a thing that was just going to affect a certain group. It was going to affect a large number of people across our country.”
And now, Price said, America gets the chance to “correct some things.”
Two major factors that determined the Republican victory, Price said, were the Supreme Court justice appointment and President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act.
“’Obamacare” was “crammed down people’s throat” and offered empty promises, he said.
The healthcare system changes took out competition, Price said, which passed a burden to the American people.
“And I think last night they said enough is enough,” Price said.
First-time voters, and others who stayed home on previous election days, played a vital role in the Republican victory by getting out to the polls Tuesday, he noted.
But for many Democrats, election night went much differently than they expected.
By the time Florida was called, Beth Clayton had done the math and knew it was nearly impossible for Clinton to pull through. But when Pennsylvania turned red, it closed the door for Democrats.
Clayton, president of Alabama Young Democrats, only had time to process the result and prepare for bed.
“A lot of what I’ve been feeling over the past 12 hours has been trying to reconcile what I thought I knew about America and America’s values with what we’ve seen on display at the ballot box,” she said.
Democrats sat back after looking at polls, the Trump campaign and Clinton’s qualifications, failing to come through at the ballot boxes, Clayton said. They were sold a Clinton victory and took it for granted.
“This whole campaign we have run on the belief that America’s best days are ahead of us and that we are stronger together. That was (Clinton’s) motto,” Clayton said.
The nation, to her, was not one that wanted to build a wall or implement religious tests for immigration.
In 2008, Democrats were fighting for hope and change after the recession, war in the Middle East and eight years of the Bush administration. And four years ago, Democrats were out to protect the progress of the Obama administration.
But the passion, Clayton said, was absent this year.
She remembers working at field offices in 2012 and seeing an excitement in volunteers to protect Democrat progress in America. It was also that year that young voters played a vital role in re-electing Obama, Clayton said.
But there was a shortfall Tuesday. It seemed that Democrats miscalculated voters’ priorities.
“This time around, I think that a lot of people were put off by the attacks on Secretary Clinton,” Clayton said. “I think a lot of people were more concerned about her transparency and her honesty than what we thought.”
This year, both sides felt their values were under attack.
“Those people who stood up last night for Donald Trump were the same people on our side who stood up for Barack Obama in 2008,” Clayton said.
And the rules of politics, she added, seemed void this election cycle.
“He was never supposed to be the Republican nominee if you listened to the polls and the pundits,” Clayton said. “He was never supposed to win the White House.”
But Trump, she said, controlled the narrative the entire election year.
“And in this election, from the beginning, it’s been the Donald Trump show, and we’ve just kind of been playing in his world,” she said.
Trump, to be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on Jan. 20, 2017, is the first president with no military or government experience.
“I think that’s the one of the great things about America,” Price said. “That people do have a voice.”