WASHINGTON — Donald Trump captured crucial victories in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina early Wednesday, but remained locked in tight races across several swing states with polls closing across the nation. Other key battleground states remained exceptionally tight as an ugly and unpredictable presidential election lurched to an uncertain finish.
For Trump, victory in Ohio was vital to hopes of winning the White House. No Republican in the modern era has won the presidency without Ohio.
Trump took Georgia and Iowa and was neck-and-neck with Clinton in Pennsylvania. The Republican looked set to win Wisconsin and Michigan as well.
Clinton, who also won Virginia, California and Colorado, was banking on victories in the upper Midwest and Western battlegrounds to hold off Trump, where votes were still being counted.
Stronger-than-expected early returns across several key states fueled excitement inside a Manhattan hotel where Trump was expected to appear once a winner was announced. His supporters chanted “USA!” as the New York billionaire gathered privately with his family inside Trump Tower. Ohio Pastor Darrell Scott, who leads Trump’s National Diversity Coalition, said presidential hopeful was loose and relaxed.
“Everyone was nervous but Trump,” Scott said.
The uncertainty sent Dow futures and Asian markets tumbling, reflecting investor concern over what a Trump presidency might mean for the economy and trade.
As Clinton’s team anxiously waited for results to roll in, the candidate tweeted to supporters, “Whatever happens tonight, thank you for everything.”
This team has so much to be proud of. Whatever happens tonight, thank you for everything. pic.twitter.com/x13iWOzILL
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 9, 2016
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.
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. Republicans held their ground in North Carolina and in Indiana, where GOP Rep. Todd Young defeated former Sen. Evan Bayh.
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 US-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.”