Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

'His personality got out the vote' - US Ambassador to NZ on Trump

The mood at the United States embassy's election day function changed not long before the drizzle set in outside.

What had started out as a gloriously sunny day was clouding over.

US Ambassador Mark Gilbert, nominated by President Barack Obama and who raised millions of dollars for the democrats, stopped circulating the crowd for a time from about 3.45pm.

Sitting next to a "make your own" cardboard Uncle Sam hat and underneath a screen showing results tilting towards Trump, Gilbert fixated on his phone.

Around 4.30pm Larry Keim, originally from California but who now lives on the Kapiti coast, commented, "and the sun will come up tomorrow" after CNN showed a lead of 135,000 votes for Trump in Florida.

Ohio had been called for the Republican's man. "There are a lot of angry people out there," another guest said, almost to herself.

Keim, who moved to New Zealand with his Scottish wife after falling in love with the country while holidaying here, said Trump's message had struck an emotional cord with large swathes of the electorate.

Mark Gilbert. Photo / Nicholas Jone
Mark Gilbert. Photo / Nicholas Jone

"He has played to bigotry, racism, exclusionism. A lot of my Republican friends, there is no hatred in them. They are fearful of people not like themselves.

"But I can say that of every country I have lived in. Ive lived in the UK, in North Africa, in Japan, Korea, and now New Zealand."

Dawn Ferguson, wearing a badge with the Democrat's donkey symbol, said a Donald Trump presidency was "too scary to comprehend".

Ferguson is originally from New York and has been a New Zealand citizen for 43 years.
Her husband, Roy Ferguson, was New Zealand's ambassador to the US from 2006-10, and the pair attended the inauguration of Barack Obama.

"I grew up kind of in the same vintage as Hillary, and I've always been a strong supporter of her as a person. I think she is very much maligned by the media and the Republicans," Ferguson said.

Gilbert, who prior to a banking career played professional baseball for eight seasons, started the day talking about the advantage Latino votes would likely give Clinton.

Leaving the function at 6.30pm and before the race had been called, Gilbert said he didn't think it would be so close.

"Donald Trump had not built a get-out-the-vote team. But I guess as we saw in the primaries...his personality got out the vote, and I think that's what we saw today."

Gilbert said he lived through Bush v Gore in 2000 when it took 36 days to name a President, and as such still believed Clinton could win.

Asked how his country was feeling right now, he said it would be "very divided" with half excited, and half who thought Clinton would be the one to "break the glass ceiling" and become the first female president.

Gilbert said, at this point, he believed Trump was the favourite to claim the Presidency.

"At this point, yes. Because everything has been trending his way. Normally when you see a trend, it doesn't happen just in one state."

Keim, working in IT project management and free of the constraints of office, said if Trump did win he would be "only one pedestal of the Government".

"The President is not a dictatorship. Running a boardroom is not the same as running a country. He will be in for a rude shock.

"It will be very embarrassing as an American to be run by someone who doesn't know what he is doing. But people will work with him to make him understand that he can't do what he did on a campaign trail or in the Apprentice and run a government that way.

"The minute he tries to nail China...that's great, all those tariffs and prices go up. And the average man can't go to K-Mart and buy things on the cheap. Because, guess what, there will be a price to pay."

- NZ Herald

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