On Election Day, an infectious optimism was in the air in predominantly Democratic Philadelphia. From lifelong residents to first-time voters, every Democrat seemed confident Clinton would win.
One was not. When former Gov. Ed Rendell showed up at the polls to hand Temple students soft pretzels and water, he appeared uncharacteristically anxious.
“Around the state they are having just as heavy turnout as we are, so we can’t leave,” Rendell told students in line. “I fear this is going to be a one-point, two-point night, so everybody has to hang in there.”
Asked who would win, he quietly responded in his gravelly voice: “I hope Hillary. I never predict elections.”
It turns out Rendell’s fears were well founded.
About 70,000 votes made the difference to give Trump the state. He pulled 49 percent of the vote to Clinton’s 48 percent. Pennsylvania hasn't given its 20 electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988.
And everywhere in Philadelphia Wednesday, scores of people looked miserable.
Contractor Michael Laurence, 62, an ex-Marine and cancer survivor, was not among them. He's been holding up his pro-Trump signs at events around the city, including outside Clinton’s final campaign event, a concert at Independence Mall on Monday.
“I stayed up all night. I cried when it was over,” he said Wednesday. “At one point, I didn’t care if he won, I just cared that he won Pennsylvania.”
This weekend, he’s holding a celebratory barbecue.
“I knew there was a silent majority,” he said. “He pulled the people out of the swamps, the Tennessee mountains, the coal mines. … I grew up in this city, and I’ve seen too much of the Democratic ‘pay-for-play.’ We might actually have a chance to break free from all that.”
"The guys that work with me, they’re struggling. They all won," he continued. "America picked the winner."
Just a few months ago, Clinton campaign staffers were extremely confident they could take Pennsylvania. Post-convention polls gave Clinton a 10-point lead over Trump, and the campaign boasted that their ground game far exceeded Trump’s, with far more volunteers and campaign offices.
But while Trump didn’t have as many campaign offices, his signs were in yards through Bucks and Delaware counties. He dominated the vote in counties between Philly and Pittsburgh.
Just what went wrong with the Democrats' strategy in Pennsylvania may never be entirely clear. But it was at the DNC in Philadelphia that Bernie Sanders supporters put up their last stand, many of them predicting Trump would beat Clinton. Indeed, Quinnipiac polls showed Sanders performing significantly better against Trump in Pennsylvania.
“A vote for Hillary is a vote for Trump. They’re running a candidate they know will lose to him,” was how Libby DeRoos, 71, put it in July.
Speculation aside, Philadelphia’s Democratic leaders were clearly stunned by the results.
City Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell took a pragmatic perspective on Wednesday, saying that based on his victory speech, she hopes president Trump will take a different path than candidate Trump.
“He said he wants to represent the whole country, and let’s hope he’s committed to that,” she said. “He was positive, he was nice, he was inclusive. It was only a few sentences in his acceptance speech, but being our president, let’s hope he puts all the negative stuff away.”