Donald Trump was just as surprised as the rest of the country.
The president elect said publicly on Tuesday that he expected to lose the election to Democrat Hillary Clinton, based on polls showing him behind in several critical states.
“I went to see my wife. I say, ‘I tell you what. We’re not going to win tonight,'” Trump said in West Allis, Wisconsin. “The polls are coming out — I always used to believe in those things. I don’t believe them anymore.”
Trump made the comments during a victory rally at the Wisconsin State Fair Exposition Center, where he appeared in public with House Speaker Paul Ryan for only the second time this year. Since Thanksgiving, Trump has visited several states that were key to his victory, calling it a “thank you tour” to his supporters. He abandoned much of his prepared remarks on Tuesday to recount his election-night tale.
He said that he had intentionally rented a smaller hotel ballroom, expecting to make a brief concession speech after losing to Clinton. Instead, the concession turned into a celebration, and Trump delivered a speech in which he was unusually gracious to his opponent and promised to unite a divided nation.
“I said if we’re going to lose I don’t want a big ballroom,” he said. He said he figured he’d thank the guests and then “I’m out of there, right?”
But as the night progressed, TV stations kept announcing Trump had won another state.
“The map — bing bing bing, you know — that map was getting red… That map was bleeding red,” Trump said.
He still thought he might lose when reports initially indicated Texas, a state that even “lousy” Republican candidates win, he said, might be in play, and that Clinton might win the traditionally red state of Georgia, too.
He said he told his wife: “This is going to be a disaster.”
At Tuesday’s rally, Ryan and Trump appeared together on stage only briefly. Ryan introduced the vice president elect, Mike Pence, before Trump’s remarks, and then came back on stage to give Trump a Green Bay Packers jersey after his speech. The two men shook hands.
Ryan and Trump have had an on-again, off-again relationship. The speaker waited several weeks to endorse Trump after he clinched the Republican nomination. Less than a week later, Ryan said Trump made the “textbook definition of a racist comment” when he accused a judge of being biased because of his Mexican heritage.
Trump countered on Twitter that Ryan was a “weak and ineffective leader.”
They have made a public show of patching up their relationship since Trump’s election. The two appeared together when Trump visited the Capitol after the election and Ryan showed him where he’ll be inaugurated.
Trump said Tuesday that Ryan would be crucial to advancing his agenda and repeatedly complimented him.
“You know, honestly? He’s like a fine wine,” Trump said. “Every day goes by we get to appreciate his genius even more.”
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