FLORIDA – Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are locked in a dramatic battle for the all-important state of Florida up to press time at 10:30 p.m.
The Sunshine State, which carries 29 electoral votes, is likely a must-win for Trump’s presidential hopes.
With 91 per cent of the vote in, he is leading Clinton 48.9 per cent to 48 per cent. There are still votes to be counted in Democratic strongholds such as Broward and Palm Beach Counties, but the race is emerging as one of the biggest nail-biters of the night.
The tight race comes after both campaigns poured significant resources into Florida. Clinton and Trump held more than 45 events there since the conventions this summer.
A close contest is also unfolding in North Carolina, another swing state that is a vital piece of Trump’s path to the White House. With 64 per cent of votes counted, Clinton leads Trump 49.4 per cent to 48.1 per cent. Trump hopes to rack up large margins in late-reporting rural counties to counter Clinton’s advantage in the cities and the suburbs.
So far, Clinton won eight states and the District of Columbia, while Trump came out on top in 15 states, according to CNN projections. Clinton has 97 electoral votes compared to 84 for Trump, according to CNN projections. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.
Regardless of who prevails, history will be made as Americans elect either their first woman president or side with the ultimate political outsider.
Both candidates argue the election presents an unusually significant choice for a divided nation. Democrats warn that Trump, with his rhetoric on race, gender and immigration, would represent a rejection of core American values. Trump insists his campaign represents America’s last chance to drive out a corrupt political establishment that has turned its back on hard-working Americans.
New York is the centre of the political universe this Election Day. This is the first campaign since 1944 in which both candidates are from the Empire State. And their victory parties are being held a mile and a half apart in Manhattan.
Early exit polls show that a majority of voters — 54 per cent — approve of President Barack Obama, but only four in 10 said they would be optimistic or excited about a Trump or Clinton presidency. And four in 10 said their top priority was a candidate who would bring needed change. But a similar share said they were voting on experience or judgment, sentiments that did not seem to offer an edge to either candidate.
Clinton appears to have the easier route through the electoral map to the 270 votes needed to win the presidency. She is counting on minority voters and highly-educated white women to take her to victory. Trump is hoping a huge turnout from his less well-educated, less diverse coalition will defy pollsters who give Clinton a small but steady lead nationally and are projecting tight races in some swing states.
At her last rally, past midnight in North Carolina, Clinton capped her campaign with the words “Love trumps hate”.
Trump took to Fox News on Tuesday morning to declare his confidence in the outcome.
“We’re going to win a lot of states. Who knows what happens, ultimately, but we’re going to win,” he said. The GOP nominee also took aim at polls showing that Clinton has the advantage.
“I think a lot of polls are purposely wrong. The media is extremely dishonest and I think a lot of polls are phony. I don’t think they interview people. I think they put out phony numbers,” Trump said on Fox & Friends.
Trump also appeared to be laying the groundwork for a legal challenge in the event of a close race. In Nevada, his campaign sued Clark County officials over an alleged decision to keep early voting polling stations open two extra hours. The lawsuit targets the greater Las Vegas area, which has large minority precincts.
A judge later denied Trump’s request.
The GOP nominee sent conflicting signals about his willingness to accept the result if he loses, telling News Radio 610 WTVN in Ohio that he would see what happens.
“You hear so many horrible stories and you see so many things that are wrong. So we’ll take a look. Certainly, I love this country and I believe in the system, you understand that,” he said.
The presidential election is not the only close race being watched Tuesday. Democrats are battling to grab back the Senate from Republicans and scored their first pickup when war veteran Tammy Duckworth won her race against Republican Sen. Mark Kirk.