American voters are heading to the polls on Tuesday after a star-studded climax to a campaign that could elect either the first female president of the United States or a celebrity billionaire who threatens to rewrite the rules of politics forever, the Guardian reports.
Minutes after midnight the traditional first election day ballot was cast in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, as Lady Gaga in North Carolina and Donald Trump’s running mate Mike Pence in Michigan introduced competing last-ditch rallies.
With a fumbled start that many will hope does not herald more serious voting irregularities to come, residents of Dixville delivered four votes for Hillary Clinton, two for Trump, one for libertarian Gary Johnson and a quirky write-in for the 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Democrats were cautiously optimistic of national victory after Trump’s promise to build a wall against immigrants appeared instead to be bolstering Clinton’s electoral firewall.
Analysis of early voting behaviour suggested the Republican candidate may have stirred a demographic giant by encouraging up to 87% more Hispanic voters than usual in states such as Florida.
Democrats began election day with an average lead in national opinion polling of around three points, though state-level polling suggested several possible paths to victory also remained for Trump among white working-class voters.
Leaving nothing to chance, Clinton and President Barack Obama held afternoon rallies in Michigan on Monday and appeared on stage together in Philadelphia with Bruce Springsteen, a one-man songbook for America’s blue-collar angst.
Springsteen played Thunder Road, ending with the lyric “We’re pulling out of here to win”, and Long Walk Home, a bleak hymn to a town that has lost its businesses but still “wraps its arms around you”.
Before the largest crowd of the Democratic campaign, in front of Independence Hall, Obama slapped the lectern as he introduced “this fighter, this stateswoman, this mother, this grandmother, this patriot, our next president of the United States of America, Hillary Clinton”.
The former secretary of state implored “we have to bridge the divide in our country” as she began pivoting to what may be a key challenge if she does win. “I regret deeply how angry the tone of the campaign became.”
In New York, Madonna – sporting a stars and stripes bobble hat – covered John Lennon’s Imagine in an impromptu acoustic show.
The night’s momentum continued as Clinton boarded her plane, bound for Raleigh, North Carolina, where she held the final rally of her campaign just after midnight.
Accompanied by her family, Clinton was in visibly good spirits while chatting jovially with aides towards the front cabin. The singer Jon Bon Jovi, who performed in Philadelphia and was scheduled for an encore in Raleigh, joined the flight and enthusiastically snapped photos on his mobile phone to document a historic night. Even Huma Abedin – the longtime aide who left the trail amid renewed but ultimately unfounded controversy surrounding Clinton’s emails 10 days ago – had returned.
The revelry resembled a campaign aware it was on the brink of victory, savoring every last moment after an exhausting 18 months.
But Trump was voicing equal confidence he could pull off a surprise victory that would send shockwaves around the world, hoping to channel anger over jobs and trade into an election day upset without parallel.
“Today is our independence day,” he told the audience in Grand Rapids. “Today the American working class is going to strike back, finally.”
“We have one flawed candidate left to beat,” added Trump, reeling off his list of equally unexpected wins in the Republican primary. “It’s going to be the beginning of a new adventure.”
The Trump camp went into the final day of the campaign needing an almost clean sweep of battleground states such as Florida and North Carolina to win outright, plus a series of shock wins in the rustbelt that looked less and less likely.
But sensing possible danger, the Clinton campaign poured last-minute resources into the industrial midwest, a region where she struggled against a similar antiestablishment surge for Bernie Sanders during the primary election season.
Clinton told supporters in Michigan the election was a choice “between division and unity … between strong and steady leadership and a loose cannon who could put everything at risk.”
Speaking to a packed crowd in a community college gymnasium in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Trump outlined his closing message that “this election will decide whether we are ruled by a corrupt political class or by yourselves, the people”.
Both presidential candidates planned to watch Tuesday night’s election returns in New York, prompting the city to stage the largest election day police deployment in its history, officials said.
The New York police department was poised to station 5,000 uniformed officers, including some with automatic weapons and explosives detection equipment, across Manhattan and the city’s 1,205 polling stations.
The Department of Justice announced its civil rights division was deploying more than 500 voting monitors to 28 states, amid particular concern that changes to voting rules in some states such as North Carolina may have deliberately affected African American turnout.