CLIN­TON, TRUMP IN TIGHT RACE

Vic­tory in 2016 pres­i­den­tial con­test comes down to key swing states

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE -

WASH­ING­TON >> Amer­ica’s ugly and un­pre­dictable pres­i­den­tial elec­tion bar­reled to­ward the fin­ish Tues­day night, with Hil­lary Clin­ton and Don­ald Trump fight­ing fiercely for Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, three of the na­tion’s most com­pet­i­tive states.

Clin­ton, a fix­ture in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics for decades, was hop­ing to be­come the first woman to serve as com­man­der in chief. She faced stiff com­pe­ti­tion from Trump, the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man who tapped into a sear­ing strain of eco­nomic pop­ulism.

Trump picked up a num­ber of re­li­ably Repub­li­can states, while Clin­ton won in Demo­cratic ter­ri­tory. But the race was to be de­ter­mined by fewer than a dozen com­pet­i­tive states where the can­di­dates spent mil­lions of dol­lars and much of the fall woo­ing vot­ers.

The race in Florida, a peren­nial bat­tle­ground and the big­gest prize among swing states, was ex­cep­tion­ally close. The race was also tight in North Carolina and Vir­ginia, though votes were still be­ing counted in ma­jor ur­ban ar­eas where Clin­ton was bank­ing on high turnout.

Exit polls un­der­scored the deep di­vi­sions that have de­fined the 2016 con­test. Women na­tion­wide sup­ported Clin­ton by a dou­ble-digit mar­gin, while men were sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to back Trump. More than half of white vot­ers backed the Repub­li­can, while nearly 9 in 10 blacks and two-thirds of His­pan­ics voted for the Demo­crat.

Con­trol of the Se­nate was also at stake, with Democrats need­ing to net four states if Clin­ton wins the White House. In Illi­nois, Demo­cratic Rep. Tammy Duck­worth de­feated the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent, but in neigh­bor­ing In­di­ana, GOP Rep. Todd Young snatched away a prime pickup op­por­tu­nity for Democrats.

The 45th pres­i­dent will in­herit an anx­ious na­tion, deeply di­vided by eco­nomic and ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties, race and cul­ture. The econ­omy has re­bounded from the depths of re­ces­sion, though many Amer­i­cans have yet to ben­e­fit. New ter­ror threats from home and abroad have raised se­cu­rity fears.

Clin­ton asked vot­ers to keep the White House in her party’s hands for a third straight term. She cast her­self as heir to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s legacy and pledged to make good on his un­fin­ished agenda, in­clud­ing pass­ing im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion, tight­en­ing re­stric­tions on guns and tweak­ing his sig­na­ture health care law.

“I know how much re­spon­si­bil­ity goes with this,” Clin­ton said af­ter vot­ing Tues­day at her lo­cal polling sta­tion in Chap­paqua, New York, with her hus­band, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, at her side. “So many peo­ple are count­ing on the out­come of this elec­tion, what it means for our coun­try, and I will do the very best I can if I’m for­tu­nate enough to win to­day.”

Trump, the New York real es­tate de­vel­oper who lives in a gold-plated Man­hat­tan pent­house, forged a strik­ing con­nec­tion with white, work­ing-class Amer­i­cans who feel left be­hind in the chang­ing econ­omy and di­ver­si­fy­ing coun­try. He cast im­mi­gra­tion, both from Latin Amer­ica and the Mid­dle East, as the root of many prob­lems plagu­ing the na­tion and called for build­ing a wall along the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der.

“I see so many hopes and so many dreams out there that didn’t hap­pen, that could have hap­pened, with lead­er­ship, with proper lead­er­ship,” he said by tele­phone on Fox News be­fore cast­ing his own bal­lot in Man­hat­tan. “And peo­ple are hurt so badly.”

Seven in 10 Amer­i­cans who went to the polls Tues­day said im­mi­grants now in the coun­try il­le­gally should be al­lowed to stay, while just a quar­ter said they should be de­ported. More than half op­pose build­ing a bor­der wall, ac­cord­ing to the exit polls, which were con­ducted for The As­so­ci­ated Press and tele­vi­sion net­works by Edi­son Re­search.

The Repub­li­can Party’s tortured re­la­tion­ship with its nom­i­nee was ev­i­dent right up to the end. For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush and wife Laura Bush de­clined to back Trump, in­stead se­lect­ing “none of the above” when they voted for pres­i­dent, ac­cord­ing to spokesman Freddy Ford.

Trump set both par­ties on edge when he re­fused to say in the third and fi­nal de­bate whether he would ac­cept the elec­tion’s re­sults, cit­ing with no ev­i­dence the pos­si­bil­ity of a rigged out­come. His state­ment threat­ened to un­der­mine a fun­da­men­tal pil­lar of Amer­i­can democ­racy and raised the prospect that his fer­vent sup­port­ers would not view Clin­ton as a le­git­i­mate pres­i­dent if she won.

Asked Tues­day in an in­ter­view with Fox News if he would ac­cept the elec­tion re­sults, Trump con­tin­ued to de­mur, say­ing “We’re go­ing to see how things play out.”

Most prob­lems that did pop up at polling places Tues­day ap­peared to be rou­tine — the kinds of snags that come ev­ery four years, in­clud­ing long lines, machines not work­ing prop­erly and is­sues with bal­lots or voter rolls.

Even be­fore Tues­day, al­most 45 mil­lion peo­ple had cast bal­lots for pres­i­dent. Many ex­pressed re­lief the end was in sight af­ter an elec­tion sea­son in which per­sonal at­tacks of­ten drowned out the is­sues.

Clin­ton has de­nounced Trump for call­ing Mex­i­can im­mi­grants “rapists” and pro­mot­ing a ban on Mus­lims en­ter­ing the U.S., and for his long line of re­marks about women that cul­mi­nated in an au­dio in which he bragged about grab­bing their gen­i­tals. Her cam­paign was hop­ing high turnout among His­pan­ics push her over the top in states like Florida and Ne­vada.

“I grew up in a His­panic fam­ily, and the way that Don­ald Trump has re­ferred to il­le­gal im­mi­grants — be­ing from il­le­gal im­mi­grants, I took that to heart,” said An­gel Salazar, a 22-year-old san­i­ta­tion as­so­ci­ate from Ok­la­homa City. “I don’t like any­thing that he said. I don’t like his views. So I voted for Hil­lary Clin­ton be­cause she sup­ports us.”

AN­DREW HARNIK — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton, ac­com­pa­nied by her hus­band, for­mer Pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, right, greets sup­port­ers out­side Dou­glas G. Graf­flin School in Chap­paqua af­ter vot­ing on Tues­day.

EVAN VUCCI — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump, ac­com­pa­nied by his wife, Me­la­nia, talks with re­porters as they wait in line to vote at P.S. 59 in Man­hat­tan on Tues­day.

EVAN VUCCI — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sup­port­ers of Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Don­ald Trump cheer dur­ing a cam­paign rally, Tues­day, Nov. 8, 2016, in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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