Clinton, Trump fight to wire as bitter US race ends 

GRAND RAPIDS, United States (AFP and AP) — Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump yesterday gave US voters a stark choice as their brutal White House battle neared its end – between her vision of unity and his promise to take back power from Washington’s corrupt elites.

On the final day of a presidential campaign that has left a bemused world looking on in concern for its greatest power, Trump doubled down on his unabashed appeal to popular resentment.

MICHIGAN, United States - Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at the Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse yesterday in Allendale, Michigan. (Photo: AFP)

MICHIGAN, United States – Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during a rally at the Grand Valley State University Fieldhouse yesterday in Allendale, Michigan.

The Democrat Clinton has had sharp words for her rival, a 70-year-old property tycoon who seized the conservative Republican Party and turned it into a vehicle for his populist bombast, but she ended the race pleading for unity.

Some 40 million Americans have already cast ballots in states that allow early voting, and tens of millions more will turn out today for what is shaping up to be a historic clash.

“It’s time to fight for America. I’m not a politician, I can say proudly. My only special interest is you,” Trump told a raucous crowd, vowing to end free trade, control immigration and “bring back” jobs.

“But the years of betrayal will end – they will end and they’re going to end quickly. They’re going to end as of the day we take office, which is going to be very, very soon.”

Clinton – the 69-year-old former first lady, senator and secretary of state – has had a narrow but consistent lead in opinion polls as she strives to become America’s first woman president.

But the campaign has been bruising – she has been dogged by allegations that she put US secrets at risk on her private e-mail server while at the State Department and the race remains perilously close in a handful of key states.

Support for Trump dropped after footage emerged of him bragging about sexual assault and at least a dozen women came forward to accuse him, but polls have tightened as the big day approaches.

“Tomorrow, we face the test of our time,” Clinton warned. “Will we be coming together as a nation, or splitting further apart? Will we set goals that all of us can help meet, or will we turn on each other?

“After tomorrow, the work will begin, and one of the highest priorities that I feel an obligation to address is how we bring the country together,” the Democrat added, at a rally in Michigan.

As Election Day approached – to the relief of the many voters left cold by the long drawn-out slog through the political mud – both candidates maintained break-neck schedules.

Clinton made stops in three battleground states, and deployed President Barack Obama as cheerleader-in-chief in another, before they were to join up at a star-studded grand finale in Philadelphia.

“The world is watching us right now. This is one of those moments. Don’t let it slip away,” Obama said in New Hampshire.

Trump sneered at Clinton’s choice of pop stars – Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga – to attract the crowds, and stuck to his stump speech, each new version slightly more aggressive than the last.

“This election will decide whether we are ruled by a corrupt political class; you’re seeing what’s happening. Everybody is watching. Or whether we are ruled by the people,” he declared.

“We’re going to be ruled by the people, folks. That is going to be the choice. Our failed political establishment has delivered nothing but poverty, nothing but problems, nothing but losses.

“It’s time to reject the media and political elite that has bled our country dry,” he declared, pointing to the press pen at his event, and whipping up cries of “Drain the swamp!” from his fervent supporters.

Trump’s vow to rip up America’s free trade deals, build a wall on the Mexican border and renegotiate US treaty alliances has spooked world markets seeking stability after the recent global slowdown.

Last week, US stocks as measured by the S&P 500 index fell for nine straight days for the first time since 1980, only to recover a little when the FBI confirmed Clinton would not face prosecution over her e-mails.

Global stock markets surged yesterday, with Wall Street gaining more than two per cent, as hopes for a Clinton victory rose after FBI director James Comey’s weekend announcement that she was in the clear.

The dollar also gained, and analyst Patrick O’Hare of briefing.com said: “You can certainly take for granted from today’s rally that the market seems to like the idea of Mrs Clinton being elected president.”

On the eve of the vote, Clinton held a widening but still close 3.2 percentage point lead over Trump in a four-way race including two fringe candidates, according to a RealClearPolitics average of national polls.

But a win in votes casts will mean nothing if she does not win the electoral college, fending off a last-ditch Trump bid to secure Florida and poach North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Nevada or New Hampshire.

On the eve of voting, respected data journalist Nate Silver’s site FiveThirtyEight.comgave the Democrat a 69 per cent chance of victory, conservative odds compared to newer rivals.

“I think I have some work to do to bring the country together,” Clinton acknowledged as she boarded her plane for her last battleground tour. “I really do want to be the president for everybody.”

As Clinton took the stage in Pittsburgh, supporters yelled out, “We love you” – an unusual occurrence for the Democratic presidential candidate who has sometimes struggled to connect with voters.

“I love you all, too. Absolutely,” Clinton said with a slight chuckle.

Trump was aggressive to the end, repeatedly slamming Clinton at his first event of the day in Sarasota, Florida. Having made the new FBI review a centrepiece of his closing case to voters, he argued that Clinton was being protected by a “totally rigged system”.

“You have one magnificent chance to beat the corrupt system and deliver justice,” Trump said. “Do not let this opportunity slip away.”

The comments were a reminder that Comey’s news was a doubled-edged sword for Clinton. While it vindicated her claims that the e-mails would not yield new evidence, it ensured that a controversy that has dogged her campaign from the start would follow her through Election Day.

Across the country, nearly 24 million early ballots were cast under the shadow of Comey’s initial announcement of a new e-mail review. That number represents more than half of the roughly 42.5 million people who had cast votes by yesterday afternoon, according to

Associated Press data.

The inquiry involved material found on a computer belonging to Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman and estranged husband of Huma Abedin, a longtime Clinton aide. Comey said Sunday the FBI reviewed communications “to or from Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state”.

Clinton tried to fly above the controversy yesterday and was not expected to address the matter during stops in Michigan and North Carolina.

Nearing the end of his two terms in the White House, Obama was nostalgic as he launched his own busy day of events, noting that he was probably making his last campaign swing for the foreseeable future.

“Whatever credibility I have earned after eight years as president, I am asking you to trust me on this. I am voting for Hillary Clinton,” Obama said.

Clinton is banking in part on high turnout – particularly among Obama’s young, diverse coalition of voters – to carry her over the finish line today. Roughly half the states with advance voting have reported record turnout, including Florida and Nevada, which have booming Hispanic populations, a possible good sign for Clinton.

In Florida alone, Hispanic participation is up by more than 453,000 votes, nearly doubling the 2012 level. Black turnout is up compared to 2012, but that share of the total vote is lower due to bigger jumps among Latinos and whites, according to University of Florida professor Daniel Smith

In Nevada, where more than three-fourths of expected ballots have been cast, Democrats also lead, 42 per cent to 36 per cent.

Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie downplayed the impact of increased Hispanic participation, telling reporters on a conference call, “We feel that we’re going to get a good share of those votes.” However, he sidestepped two questions about the level of Hispanic vote Trump needs to win the presidency.

Without victories in Florida and Nevada, Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes would be exceedingly narrow. He already must win nearly all of the roughly dozen battleground states.

Trump planned to campaign at a breakneck pace through Election Day. Following the rally in Florida, he headed to North Carolina and then was off to Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. After voting in New York this morning, Trump is scheduled to return to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire.

Midway through his travels yesterday, Trump praised his supporters for having created a “movement”. But he warned it would all slip away if he loses today.

“Go vote,” he urged. “Or honestly, we’ve all wasted our time.”

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