TOP STORIES: The Presidential Election

By Christie Zizo, Digital Media Producer
Last Updated: Friday, December 16, 2016, 1:45 PM EST

Revolutionary, unprecedented, historic, disastrous.

Everyone has a word for the 2016 presidential election. Unpredictable may be the most biggest one.

Not that the result of the year was completely unpredictable, but the way it all went down was pretty surprising, keeping politicos, journalists and lay people alike off-kilter all year long.

Primaries

January started off with a pool of 17 Republican presidential candidates, while the Democrats had three candidates going into the Iowa caucuses February 1.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas took the caucus for the Republicans, while Hillary Clinton eked out a win for the Democrats.

Donald Trump finished second in Iowa, and some in the media wondered if the honeymoon for the unconventional candidate was over.

Trump, while gracious in his concession speech, later accused Ted Cruz on Twitter of stealing the election by planting a false report that candidate Ben Carson had suspended his campaign, sending his supporters to Cruz.

With the first caucus done, candidates began dropping out before the New Hampshire primary. Trump won big, as did Clinton challenger Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

By the time of the Florida primary, only Trump, Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich remained.  Trump was ascendant, beating candidates like former Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, candidates that seemed to be popular choices only months ago.

A serious of outrageous speeches at campaign rallies and protests that led to some violence did little to quench Trump’s strength.

Enter Mitt Romney. The former Republican presidential candidate took the lead in a campaign to stop Trump from winning the Republican nomination. The Anti-Trump faction urged Florida Republicans to vote for Rubio and Ohio Republicans to vote for Kasich.

The hope was it would stop Trump’s momentum and force a contested Republican National Convention. It did not work.

The concept of a brokered GOP convention was bandied about all year. Who would have thought in January that it would be the Democrats who would have problems in July, not Republicans?

Bernie Sanders’ win in New Hampshire was the first of many. His populist message made social democracy attractive to many. He won surprisingly in several states, like Michigan. As he started to turn heads in the media, it looked like he might have had a path to beat Clinton, but his momentum came too late. The Democrats took their primary campaigns all the way to the last primaries in June.

Hillary Clinton won 2,205 Democratic National Convention delegates, while Sanders took 1,846 delegates.

Clinton needed 2,382 delegates to win. Superdelegates put Clinton over the top.

In terms of the popular vote, Clinton beat Sanders by 3.78 million.

The conventions

Trump accepted the nomination at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. The convention was marked by odd appearances (Scott Baio?) and small controversies (Melania Trump plagiarizing a speech by Michelle Obama). Many top Republicans chose not to attend the convention.

Before the Democratic primary campaign, there were already accusations that the Democratic establishment was conspiring to keep Sanders from beating Clinton. Sanders was not a Democrat. He considered an Independent in Vermont, though he caucuses with Democrats in the Senate. As Sanders grew, those accusations worsened.

Then before the DNC in Philadelphia, Wikileaks released hundreds of emails from the Democratic National Committee. The emails implied the party had made life as hard as it possibly could with the Sanders campaign, even working to keep Sanders out of the press as much as possible.

As a result of the emails, the national Democratic chairperson, Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resigned. Other staffers either stepped down or were fired.

It was not enough to quell angry Sanders supporters. Groups of delegates made their voices heard throughout the DNC, with shouts during speeches and special signs. A walkout was staged as well.

But in the end, Hillary Clinton accepted the nomination, becoming the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party. She accepted at the end of a weeklong celebrity-filled celebration.

The rough finish

While Trump campaigned hard in August, Clinton spent the month mostly fundraising.

Clinton’s return to the campaign trail was marred on Sept. 11 when she left the New York City memorial service and appeared to faint before getting into a vehicle. Her doctors said she had pneumonia.

She recovered in time for the first debate in New York against Trump. Clinton studied hard for the debate while Trump told the media he didn’t like to do hard prep.

That changed after the first debate, according to reports.

Before the second debate, a video was leaked to the Washington Post. In it, Donald Trump is overheard telling Access Hollywood reporter Billy Bush about attempts to proposition another reporter. He also said, in vulgar terms, that he could do anything to beautiful women because he was a star.

Trump was at the center of controversy the whole season as scandals big and small, past and current popped up. Businesses reported being stiffed by Trump and his company on payment for work. He was being sued by students of Trump University for fraud. A former campaign chief and other advocates were accused of having ties to Russia.

Then it was revealed that he had gotten sweetheart deals on property taxes, and because of losses he most likely had not paid federal income tax in years.

But it was the Access Hollywood tape that really got Republicans to disavow Trump. He was disinvited to a rally with House Speaker Paul Ryan. Other Republican leaders condemned him.

Trump responded by trotting out some of the women who had accused former President Bill Clinton of harassment and sexual misconduct before the second debate to rattle Clinton, who could not be baited.

Wikileaks reappeared in the fall and released a new cache of emails, this time from the Clinton campaign itself. The emails helped dig up fresh anger among liberals, while Republicans tried to capitalize on things like excerpts from Clinton’s paid speeches to Wall Street brokers.

The emails that really may have wounded Clinton, however, came not from Wikileaks but from a former Democratic congressman.

A week before Election Day, FBI Director James Comey sent a letter to a House committee about the discovery of new emails on a computer belonging to disgraced Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was married to Clinton’s confidante Huma Abedin.

It was unknown whether the emails were pertinent to any case, but the insinuation was they could have been related to an FBI case regarding a private server Clinton used while she was secretary of state.

Democrats point to the Comey letter, which turned out to be nothing, as the nail in the coffin of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.

But history may yet show that Donald Trump won because of his calls to rip up trade deals and force companies back to the United States, especially in the Rust Belt states. Clinton’s Election Day firewall crumbled when Trump took Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, three traditionally left-leaning states.

Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 election by 2.7 million vote. But Trump won all the right states and took the Electoral College, 306 to 232.

Democratic leaders have largely called for a peaceful transition of power. But attempts have been made to get electors to abstain from voting for Trump, claiming his conflicts of interest and accusations that Russia acted to get Trump elected.

But come Jan. 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump will take the oath of office to become the 45 the president of the United States.