AMER­ICA ON THE EDGE

Don­ald Trump con­founds poll­sters by scor­ing key bat­tle­ground vic­to­ries, ap­pears headed to­ward pres­i­dency

Toronto Star - - FRONT PAGE - DANIEL DALE WASH­ING­TON BUREAU CHIEF

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.

PHO­TOS BY AFP/GETTY IM­AGES AND THE NEW YORK TIMES

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.

JOHN RAOUX/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A Don­ald Trump sup­porter stands in the mid­dle of Or­ange Ave., in Or­lando, Fla., wav­ing a flag and cheer­ing to pass­ing ve­hi­cles.

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