Clinton, Trump notch early wins as US polls start closing

2016-11-09 01:39:29 GMT2016-11-09 09:39:29(Beijing Time) Agencies

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump locked up their first state wins Tuesday (Nov 8) as polling stations closed in the eastern United States, with the world waiting anxiously to see who will head to the White House.

Some 200 million Americans were asked to make a historic choice -- between electing the nation's first woman president, or handing the reins of power to a billionaire populist who has upended US politics with his improbable outsider campaign.

With voting over in a handful of states and Americans queueing to cast their ballots farther west, television networks called Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia for the Republican Trump, and Vermont for the veteran Democrat.

None of these early results were a surprise and all eyes were fixed on key swing states like Florida or Pennsylvania that will likely decide the result of the long, bruising contest for the right to lead the world's biggest economy.

Clinton went into the day with a slim opinion poll lead and a more obvious route to winning the key states that will decide the electoral college, but the first early results were not expected until 7.00pm (8.00am Singapore time Wednesday).

A survey conducted by CNN found that 54 per cent of voters approve of the job incumbent president Barack Obama is doing, and only four in 10 were optimistic his successor would do any better.

As the world held its collective breath, the winner's name was not expected to be known before 0300 GMT (11.00am Singapore time) Wednesday, and if polls are close, the wait could go long into the night while western states count ballots.

From crowded Manhattan to Virginia horse country to balmy California, long lines snaked into the streets outside polling stations.

"Hillary, she has a history," said Charmaine Smith, 50, an African-American retail manager as she cast her ballot in Harlem. "All Trump has is the bullying."

But R. Raju, a 70-year Indian immigrant from Staten Island, New York, cast a confident vote for the Republican and his promise to reclaim power from a corrupt Washington elite. "Trump would be a great president," he said. "Not good, great. He's like a Ronald Reagan."

An hour's drive north, a crowd of admirers chanted "Madam President" as Clinton and husband Bill, the former president, voted near their home in Chappaqua, before emerging to shake hands and chat with the crowd.

"So many people are counting on the outcome of this election, what it means for our country," the 69-year-old secretary of state said. "And I'll do the very best I can if I'm fortunate enough to win today."

DON'T LET UP

Trump also cast his ballot, alongside wife Melania in a Manhattan school gymnasium.

"Right now it's looking very good," he told reporters - paying no heed to protesters who welcomed him with chants of "New York hates you!"

But as the clocked ticked down towards the close of East Coast polling stations, the Republican issued a last-minute appeal to voters in key battleground Florida - without which his path to the presidency is slim at best.

"Don't let up, keep getting out to vote - this election is FAR FROM OVER! We are doing well but there is much time left. GO FLORIDA!" Trump tweeted - looking to garner 11th hour votes.

Don't let up, keep getting out to vote - this election is FAR FROM OVER! We are doing well but there is much time left. GO FLORIDA!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 8 November 2016

MARATHON CAMPAIGN

The 2016 race is the most bruising in modern memory. Obama's election eight years ago as the nation's first black president had raised hopes of uniting Americans, but the current contest has only highlighted the country's divisions - and the fact that voters are not necessarily happy with their options.

Exit polls by ABC News and NBC News found that both Clinton and Trump are seen as untrustworthy by majorities of voters, while most find Trump's temperament unpresidential.

Most voters told ABC that the economy was the most important issue or them, but were evenly divided on which candidate would handle it better, so the final result may come down to turnout.

The exit polls, and reports coming in from polling stations around the country, suggested that Latino turnout was high and that this would favor Clinton over the anti-immigration candidate, Trump.

Trump's campaign spooked world markets seeking stability after the recent global slowdown, but stocks rose for a second straight day on Tuesday on the expectation that Clinton will prevail. At the closing bell, the S&P 500 closed up 0.4 per cent.

'LA SENORA'

A polling average by tracker site RealClearPolitics gave Clinton a 3.3-percentage point national lead, but Trump had the advantage in several of the swing states that he must conquer to pull off an upset.

Early voting has shown particular enthusiasm among Hispanic voters, an increasingly influential voting bloc whose strong turnout could shape Tuesday's results.

In the heavily Latino neighbourhood of East Los Angeles, Mexican-Americans Margarito Salinas, 88, and friend Guadalupe Cobian, 64 said their choice was an easy one. "That guy is a Nazi," Salinas said of Trump. "My vote is for La Senora."

Clinton conducted six radio interviews in the lull after casting her ballot, when candidates suddenly have hours of downtime following a non-stop campaign that ended in the early hours of Tuesday. She has urged citizens to vote for a more "big-hearted" America.

"I hope to be remembered as someone who began to help heal our country, to overcome the divide, the very unfortunate feeling that a lot of people have that this election was very much filled with nastiness and negativity," she told WOKQ.

NEVADA LEGAL CHALLENGE

Trump pressed his message with voters who feel left behind by globalisation and social change, wrapping up with a flourish in Michigan after midnight and predicting a historic upset.

"Today the American working class is going to strike back, finally," he said.

The first poll closures come at 6.00pm (2300 GMT) on the US East Coast, but it may be hours before the results become clear.

Even then, questions remain. Trump has repeatedly claimed Democrats and the media are seeking to rig the race and said last month that he may not accept the result if he thinks voting is unfair.

Asked at his voting location whether he would concede if networks call the election for Clinton, Trump said: "We'll see what happens."

In a sign that Trump is preparing an aggressive poll-related legal challenge, his attorneys filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Nevada alleging that the Clark County registrar of voters kept early voting stations open hours beyond the designated closing time.

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