Donald Trump claimed several early projected victories Tuesday night, while Hillary Clinton notched her first projected win in Vermont, as polls began to close in the historic 2016 presidential election – though the candidates remained locked in tight contests in key battlegrounds.
Fox News projects that the Republican presidential nominee will win West Virginia, Kentucky and Indiana, where running mate Mike Pence is governor.
But while Clinton has a lead in North Carolina, it’s too early to declare a winner in the key swing state. It’s also too early to declare a winner in the bellwether state of Ohio.
In Virginia, where Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine serves as the state’s junior senator, she has a lead over Trump, though it is too early to project a winner.
It is also too early to say who will win Georgia and South Carolina, two tightly contested states that Trump must clinch if he is to have a plausible path to the White House.
The incoming returns follow a frenzied day of voting across America marked by long lines and last-minute appeals for support from both campaigns.
While the race has tightened in recent days, the Democratic nominee still seemed to enter Election Day with the edge on the electoral map in her quest to become the first woman elected U.S. president. But Trump voiced confidence Tuesday about his chances in key battlegrounds.
“We’re going to win a lot of states,” the Republican nominee told Fox News, as he aims for an upset victory to cap his improbable campaign which came from behind to vanquish 16 competitors in the rowdy Republican primaries.
The general election race between Clinton and Trump has been no less grueling.
The presidential debates were marked by outbursts, interruptions and name-calling, as the candidates dealt before, during and after with a slew of campaign twists that kept the race in flux all the way to Election Day.
The most recent bombshell was FBI Director James Comey’s announcement 11 days before the election that the bureau was revisiting the investigation into Clinton’s personal email server use while secretary of state, after discovering new messages on the laptop of disgraced ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of a top Clinton aide. He closed the case again on Sunday, but Trump already was using the brief probe to revive the email controversy in the final days. The WikiLeaks release of emails hacked from Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s account also has become a constant distraction for the Democrat’s campaign, as the messages revealed infighting, internal ethical concerns about the Clinton family’s foundation and even evidence that the now-head of the Democratic National Committee leaked town hall questions to Clinton during the primaries.
Meanwhile, Trump dealt with – and denied – numerous allegations of sexual harassment and assault that came out in October, following leaked footage from over a decade ago showing Trump making crude comments about women.
The candidates swept all that aside in the closing hours of the race, as Clinton cast herself as a unifying force after a divisive election and Trump cast his bid as the vehicle to bring jobs and security back to America.
“Today is our independence day, today the American working class is going to strike,” Trump said in Grand Rapids, Mich., overnight.
Clinton, in North Carolina, said, “We have to bridge the divides in this country.”
No matter who wins, the 45th president will take office to an anti-establishment mood in the electorate and deep voter dissatisfaction with the direction of the country. Concerns about health care, the economy, terrorism and illegal immigration dominated the race and are unlikely to be settled by Tuesday’s vote.
Voters are also deciding Tuesday whether Republicans should keep control of both the Senate and House of Representatives. That decision will have a big impact on the success of the next president’s agenda.
Meanwhile, hundreds of state and local races including hot-button ballot initiatives are being decided as well.