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U.S. election: Clinton, Trump wage fierce fight for White House in battleground states

Donald Trump has captured crucial victories over Hillary Clinton in Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, showing remarkable strength in three of the most fiercely fought battleground states in the U.S. presidential election.

As the race for the White House barrelled toward a nail-biting finish, Clinton carried Virginia, Colorado and California. Her campaign had expected easy victories there, but the states took on new urgency as Trump picked up votes elsewhere.

With a handful of other battleground states still undecided — including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — neither candidate had cleared the 270 electoral college votes needed to secure a win.

The uncertainty sent Dow futures and Asian markets tumbling, reflecting investor concern over what a Trump presidency might mean for the economy and trade. The U.S. dollar and Mexican peso were also down.

As Clinton’s team anxiously waited for results to roll in, the candidate tweeted to supporters: “Whatever happens tonight, thank you for everything.”

Clinton, a fixture in American politics for decades, was hoping to become the first woman to serve. She faced stiff competition from Trump, the wealthy businessman who tapped into a searing strain of economic populism.

Both candidates scored victories in states where they were expected to win. Trump captured conservative states in the South and Midwest, while Clinton swept several states on the East Coast and Illinois in the Midwest.

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 nine in 10 blacks and two-thirds of Hispanics voted for the Democrat.

Other ballots

Democrats’ path to retaking the Senate majority narrowed as Republicans held onto key seats in North Carolina, Indiana and Florida. The Republican Party was on track to secure two more years of House control.

In California and Massachusetts, voters voted to legalized the recreational use of marijuana, giving a huge boost to the campaign to allow pot nationwide. Seven other states also voted on marijuana measures, while others were voting on gun control and the death penalty.

In Colorado, voters approved a measure that will allow physicians to assist a terminally ill person in dying. That’s already a practice in five other states. Coloradans defeated a proposal that would have set up the nation’s first universal health care system.

In all, there were more than 150 measures appearing on statewide ballots.

Campaign focused on character

The next 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, 69, asked voters to keep the White House in Democratic 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.

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump cast their ballots in the U.S. election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (Brian Snyder/Carlo Allegri/Reuters)

“I know how much responsibility goes with this,” Clinton said after voting Tuesday at her local polling station in Chappaqua, N.Y., 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 U.S.-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.”

‘None of the above’

The Republican Party’s tortured relationship with its nominee was evident right up to the end. Former president George W. Bush and wife Laura Bush declined to back Trump, instead selecting “none of the above” when they voted for president, according to spokesman Freddy Ford.

Trump, 70, set both parties on edge when he refused to say in the third and final debate whether he would accept the election’s results, citing with no evidence the possibility of a rigged outcome. His statement threatened to undermine a fundamental pillar of American democracy and raised the prospect that his fervent supporters would not view Clinton as a legitimate president if she won.

Asked in an interview with Fox News if he would accept the election results, Trump continued to demur, saying “We’re going to see how things play out.” Later in the interview, he said, “It’s largely a rigged system.”

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Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump watch election results during an election night rally in New York. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

According to the preliminary exit polls, most Americans who voted had at least a moderate amount of confidence that election ballots would be counted accurately.

Most problems that did pop up at polling places appeared to be routine — the kinds of snags that come every four years, including long lines, machines not working properly and issues with ballots or voter rolls.

Even before Tuesday, almost 45 million people had cast ballots for president. Many expressed relief the end was in sight after an election season in which personal attacks often drowned out the issues.

“I’m tired of the mudslinging,” said Laura Schmitt, a 54-year-old Republican from Woodbury, Minn., who was voting for Trump. Emetric Whittington, a 51-year-old Democratic mother of three on Chicago’s violence-plagued south side, agreed: “I can’t wait for this night to be over.”