WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump has reached the cusp of presidential victory, a stunner for Democrats, Republicans and all who underestimated him.
Capping a campaign of venom, audacity and history, Trump scored major victories in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina on Tuesday, building steam in a stunningly competitive contest with Hillary Clinton that raged across battlegrounds late into the night. Victory in Pennsylvania in the wee hours nudged him close to the prize, with Clinton having practically no path to the presidency.
Republicans kept control of the House and were on track to do so in the Senate, meaning a switch to unified government appeared in the cards.
Clinton pocketed Virginia — a squeaker like Florida — and both candidates rolled up victories in their predictable strongholds. But nothing else was predictable as the man who faced a huge climb to the presidency inched closer to it, in an election that laid bare the divisions gnawing at the nation.
Trump flipped Iowa, a state that twice voted for Democrat Barack Obama. He won Utah, a slam-dunk for most Republicans but a state where many die-hard Republicans were said to find him intolerable.
Both candidates left multitudes of Americans dissatisfied with their choices.
The struggle over whom to support was voiced by two voters in Independence, Missouri, after casting their ballots.
“I had such a hard time, harder than I’ve ever had,” said Joyce Dayhill, 59, a school bus driver who “reluctantly” voted for Trump. “I just prayed on it as hard as I could and felt this was the right decision.”
Said Clinton voter Richard Clevenger, 58: “I think Trump’s not stable. But I can’t say there was really anything Hillary’s shown me that made me feel like voting for her. But Trump just doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing, and he’s surrounded by the Mickey Mouse Club.”
The first states to be decided Tuesday night produced expected results: Kentucky, Indiana, Oklahoma, West Virginia, South Carolina and Tennessee went for Trump; Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Delaware and the District of Columbia for Clinton.
In later waves, Trump added Texas, Kansas, Georgia and more to his column while Clinton took New York and Illinois, each reaping significant gains in the contest for 270 electoral votes but still searching for a breakout. Trump’s trio of wins in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina may have provided it.
The nation’s fractures were reflected in surveys of voters as they left polling stations. 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.
And people were markedly unhappy with the choice in front of them, the exit polls found. More than half of voters for each candidate cast their ballots with reservations about the one they voted for or because they disliked the alternative. Only 4 in 10 voters strongly favored their candidate.
In contrast, about two-thirds of voters in 2012 strongly favored the candidate they chose.