How Trump's Electoral College Victory May Not Be a Mandate

Clinton's lead in the popular vote prevents GOP from claiming a referendum.

If Trump does not win the popular vote, it may limit the extent to which Republicans can claim his election as a referendum on the state of the nation. Both candidates garnered less than 50 percent of the vote.

In areas where Hillary Clinton performed best, like the liberal northeast and West Coast states, she won large margins in heavily-populated cities where she ran up her popular vote total without the benefit of garnering additional electoral votes.

The former secretary of state won in the three largest cities in the country, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, by a combined 3 million votes, enough to swing more than 10 lesser-populated states -- including important battlegrounds like Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida -- were their populations more-evenly distributed.

While Trump’s election comes as a surprise to many observers -- an upset the level of which the country has not experienced since President Harry S. Truman defended the Oval Office from New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey against long odds in 1948 -- to call the outcome indicative of the country’s ideological preferences as a whole may not be accurate.

In fact, the idea that the candidate who receives the most votes is not necessarily the winner was considered foreign to the president-elect himself as recently as four years ago.

In additional Twitter posts that evening which have since been deleted, Trump -- apparently under the false belief that Romney was on track to win the popular vote -- decried Obama’s claim to the presidency, saying, “He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!”

Trump added, “More votes equals a loss...revolution!"

But the New York real estate mogul is not the only Republican who will have to reconcile statements standing in contradiction to the current electoral reality -- GOP senators now face a dilemma over their position on the current Supreme Court vacancy.

“The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let's give them a voice,” said McConnell in March. “Let's let the American people decide.”

Critics of the Republicans’ plan pointed out that Obama was reelected in 2012 to make such a decision as ascribed to him by Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Now, they will also be able to note that the American people did decide, and -- by that popular vote margin -- a greater number selected Hillary Clinton to appoint the next justice than any other presidential candidate, including the president-elect.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday in the aftermath of Trump's victory, McConnell only addressed the popular vote total in broad terms and not in connection to the court.

"The election is over, we know who won, and we're going to move on from there and do the best we can for the American people," McConnell said.

ABC News' Ali Rogin contributed to this report.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events