AMERICA ON THE EDGE
Donald Trump confounds pollsters by scoring key battleground victories, appears headed toward presidency
NEW YORK— President Donald Trump. A distinct possibility.
An unexpectedly excellent showing by Trump in states around the country turned the U.S. presidential election into a tense Tuesday cliffhanger, with numerous key states too close to call at press time.
The early results showed a nation riven by racial and geographic divisions, and they belied polls that suggested a comfortable victory for Hillary Clinton. By 9:30 p.m., it was clear that an astonishing Trump upset was highly possible — though he still needed several states to go his way.
A Trump victory would give immense power to an erratic, never-elected Republican businessman whose behaviour and policy positions have alarmed much of the world and who would face no organized opposition in Congress.
Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives and appeared likely to keep the Senate.
Trump managed to eke out a lead in Florida, one of his must-win states, on the strength of high white turnout in rural counties. He won Ohio, where he had led for much of the past month, and North Carolina, where polls showed a dead heat.
“Absolutely buoyant,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told Yahoo News. “We can smell the win.”
Clinton, vying to become the first female president, carried Virginia and New Mexico, where she had been expected to win. She still had a path to victory as of 10:30 p.m., but her so-called “blue wall” in long-Democratic northern states had dissipated in the face of what appeared to be a Trump wave.
Clinton and President Barack Obama had called for a comprehensive rejection of Trumpism — his disparagement of women and minority groups, his disdain for democratic norms, his rage. Instead, it appeared the best she could hope for was a squeaker of a victory.
Trump was dominant with rural and exurban white voters, compensating for a surge in Hispanic support in favour of Clinton. Win or lose, his competitiveness was a remarkable achievement for a candidate who has outraged much of the country.
To pull it off, Trump needed upset wins in states where he had long trailed — some combination of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada and New Hampshire. His initial numbers in most of them looked better than most polls had forecast, with Michigan particularly worrisome for Clinton.
Mathematical models, crunching polling data, had given the former secretary of state, senator and first lady anywhere between a 70-per-cent and 99-per-cent chance of winning. By 10 p.m., the New York Times forecast gave Trump a 63-per-cent chance.
Clinton held her “victory” party at a New York City convention centre with a glass ceiling, a metaphor for the gender barrier she had hoped to break. But the mood turned glum fast.
“Absolutely buoyant. We can smell the win.” KELLYANNE CONWAY TRUMP CAMPAIGN MANAGER
“So this isn’t fun,” Jon Favreau, former speechwriter for President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter.
Stock markets tanked on the early results; investors have made clear their preference for Clinton stability over Trump’s promise of radical change. Trump’s election may precipitate a global crisis of confidence.
But much of America rejected the global consensus. Trump, who was widely considered a laughingstock when he launched his candidacy with a rambling speech in June of last year, defied the odds and the pundits again, just as he said he would.
Trump thrilled millions of white voters with his outrage-courting refusal to be “politically correct,” his vow to restore a bygone era of American glory, and scorched-earth attacks on elites, Muslims and immigration. The former reality television star managed to stay in the running despite an incessant stream of scandals, gaffes, lies and insults that would have sunk any traditional politician.
And he did so while running far fewer ads than Clinton and without the benefit of Clinton’s first-rate getout-the-vote operation. He was thriving on the strength of his persona and message alone.
Clinton asked voters to choose “love and kindness” over “all of this hate-filled rhetoric, all of these insults and scapegoating, and fingerpointing and insulting.” She ran as the candidate of diversity, prudence and civic harmony, begging moderate Republicans to temporarily put aside party to save the country.
She was hoping to win with the so-called “Obama coalition”: African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians; young people; and collegeeducated white people.
“What you’re seeing is the rise of the Clinton coalition,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon told CBS. “Hillary Clinton has not just reassembled that Obama coalition but actually expanded on it.”
There were worrying signs, though, that black turnout had fallen from the heights of the Obama era. In exit polls, Clinton remained unpopular with a majority of the voting public. And it seemed that Trump’s oft-repeated mockery of the polls had merit. He outperformed predictions in states from the deepest south to the Canadian border.
Florida, as usual, was particularly close, whipsawing from a narrow Clinton lead to a narrow Trump lead as results came in from different counties. The state’s divides mirrored those of the nation more broadly.
“Her margins in the urban areas are basically records. His margins in exurban areas are basically records. It is a pretty crazy map here,” Steve Schale, Florida director for Obama’s 2008 campaign, wrote on Twitter.
Trump’s rhetoric and past helped Clinton win the votes, if not the affections, of a substantial number of white professional women who usually vote Republican.
An NBC early exit poll showed her up 51 per cent to 43 per cent with college-educated white women, a group Mitt Romney won over Obama in 2012.
And Clinton benefited from a boom in Hispanic voting that was missed by many of the pre-election polls. Trump, whose signature policy pledge was a giant wall on the Mexican border, ended up being chal- lenged by voters with family ties to Mexico.
Voting lines were long around the country, an indication of intense voter interest in a surreal race that centred on emotional questions of personal and national identity. Exit polls had voters reporting they were sad, anxious and angry.
In its final weeks, the wild campaign veered from surprise to surprise: the leak of a 2005 tape in which Trump appeared to say he had groped women without their consent, an FBI announcement of a new investigation into Clinton’s emails, a subsequent announcement that the investigation was over.
Trump did not sound during the day like a confident candidate. In an unprecedented series of interviews during voting, he said the system was “rigged” and that “you hear so many horrible stories” about voting fraud.
His campaign filed a lawsuit, quickly dismissed by an incredulous judge, that questioned the legality of some of the early votes of people in a predominantly Hispanic district.
Later in the afternoon, he claimed CNN was reporting problems with voting machines “across the entire country” — though it was one Utah county.
“I want to see what happens,” he told an Ohio radio station.
Trump was booed and heckled by New Yorkers as he went to cast his ballot in Manhattan. In a more significant indignity, reports suggested he was shunned by the last Republican president, George W. Bush, who left his presidential choice blank.
Donald Trump appeared to be headed to a shocking victory Tuesday night over Hillary Clinton, whose supporters gathered in New York to watch the results on a giant screen.
A Donald Trump supporter stands in the middle of Orange Ave., in Orlando, Fla., waving a flag and cheering to passing vehicles.