Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump locked up their first state wins Tuesday 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 at the venue where Trump will hold his planned victory party in New York, supporters were upbeat, expressing confidence that he would stage a major political upset.
“We feel very good about where we are right now, about the turnout numbers we’re seeing in record numbers in the areas we need,” said John Fredericks, Trump’s Virginia state chairman.
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, a retail manager as she cast her ballot in Harlem. “All Trump has is the bullying.”
An hour’s drive north, a crowd of admirers chanted “Madam President” as Clinton and her 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.”
An exit poll by CNN however found that only four in 10 voters were optimistic that incumbent president Barack Obama’s successor would do any better than he has during his two terms in office.
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