Americans, young and old, minority and white, wrestled to bring a divisive and exhausting election to an end early Wednesday, creating a final cliffhanger between a woman who would smash the ultimate glass ceiling in politics and a brash outsider who defied all conventional wisdom.
Republican Donald Trump smashed predictions with key state swing wins in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, closing in on an improbable win over Democrat Hillary Clinton on the strength of disaffected white working voters.
It's a nail-biter
Mrs. Clinton, seeking to make history as the first woman to reach the White House, was struggling to attract the sort of support from women, minorities and millennials she needed to match Barack Obama's winning formula.
Her campaign chairman, John Podesta, came out around 2 a.m. Wednesday to address what was supposed to be her victory party and sent supporters home, saying the candidate would not make a statement until the morning. "Votes are still being counted," he said.
As vote counts carried late into the night, the race came down to the Rust Belt, where Michigan and Wisconsin were leaning toward Trump in late returns. Clinton, meanwhile, won decisive victories in the key states of Virginia and Nevada.
Trump fared better than expected in many categories, including losing college educated women by a smaller margin than predicted.
In popularity, both trailed Obama, who enjoyed a 54 percent popularity on Election Day. But Trump's relentless assault on trade deals, illegal immigration, Islamist terrorism and Washington elites drew a new breed of voters to the polls.
Trump swept the Southeast and rolled up most of the key swing states on the strength of a law-and-order, populist message that appealed to middle class and union workers.
There were clear winners elsewhere, too.
Hispanics turned out in unexpectedly large numbers and undocumented immigrants got support to stay in the U.S. from 7 in 10 voters. In polls leading up to the election, Latinos overwhelmingly sided with Clinton.
Republicans kept power in the
Republicans retained their hold on the U.S. House behind their leader Speaker Paul Ryan, and fought hard to keep control of the Senate with early wins in Ohio, Kentucky and Florida while losing a seat in Illinois.
A victorious Ryan
The pot factor
Marijuana also is poised to win enough ballot initiatives to put nearly a quarter of the nation's populations in states with some form of legalized pot, led by California.
It's all eyes on the White House race as the tallies are counted.
In search of 270 electoral votes, Donald Trump won Ohio.
He also needs to win Florida to take the White House, which is now too close to call.
Trump scored early wins in traditionally red states like Indiana, Alabama, Kentucky,
Montana and South Carolina while Clinton captured prizes like New Jersey, Maryland and Vermont and
was poised later in the night to easily capture electoral-rich New York and California.
The Clinton campaign was worried about minority turnout in Florida and the sentiments of white union workers in the Rust Belt.
Republicans were sweating key swing states like Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina, as their candidate trailed past prior winners in some areas and outperformed them in other regions.
After months of bitter rhetoric over The Wall, race relations
and Obamacare and endless ads about sexual groping and FBI email probes, Americans went mostly peacefully to the polls as they always do.
Larger numbers of poll watchers were deployed across the country than in past elections. Circa talked to some.
Here are some related links from the day's election coverage:
- get for free with a sticker
- This Election Day line is long. But, it's for a tombstone and not the polls.
- A day in the life of an election poll watcher