Trump, Clinton campaign until the bitter end as election day begins
Voting underway just after midnight in New Hampshire towns that take pride in being 1st
Straining toward the finish line of the wildly unpredictable White House race, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump blitzed through battleground states Monday in a final bid to energize supporters. Clinton urged voters to embrace a "hopeful, inclusive, big-hearted America," while Trump called for support to "beat the corrupt system."
The candidates campaigned late into the night, a frenzied end to a bitter election year that has laid bare the nation's deep economic and cultural divides.
Trump told his final rally crowd in Grand Rapids, Mich., that: "If we don't win, this will be the single greatest waste of time, energy and money in my life."
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Clinton, meanwhile, called on voters to reject Donald Trump's "dark and divisive" vision. She says there's no reason why "America's best days are not ahead of us."
She closed out her campaign with a rally early Tuesday in Raleigh, N.C., featuring Lady Gaga and Jon Bon Jovi. Clinton told cheering supporters that their "work will be just beginning" after election day.
She was joined in her final events by her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and confidants, including embattled aide Huma Abedin.
Clinton was greeted by a throng of supporters upon her return home at the Westchester airport, in New York, where she landed just after 3:30 a.m. ET.
Trump won over the voters of three New Hampshire precincts early Tuesday by a 32-25 margin over Clinton.
Polls in the tiny towns of Dixville, Hart's Location and Millsfield opened just after midnight Tuesday and closed as soon as everyone had voted. Under New Hampshire state law, communities with fewer than 100 voters can get permission to open their polls at midnight and close them as soon as all registered voters have cast their ballots.
Trump has little margin in battleground states
That curio aside, Trump's path to the presidency will be a difficult one.
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.
Clinton opened the day Monday buoyed by FBI Director James Comey's announcement Sunday that he would not recommend criminal charges against her following a new email review. The inquiry had sapped a surging Clinton momentum at a crucial moment in the race, though she still heads into Election Day with multiple paths to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to become the nation's first female president.
Trump was aggressive to the end, repeatedly slamming Clinton at his first event of the day in Sarasota, Fla. 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, delivered in a letter to lawmakers on Sunday, was a doubled-edged sword for Clinton. While it vindicated her claims that the emails would not yield new evidence, it ensured that a controversy that has dogged her campaign from the start would follow her through election day.
Obama makes last appeal for Clinton
Across the country, nearly 24 million early ballots were cast under the shadow of Comey's initial announcement of a new email review. That number represents about half of the nearly 45 million people who had cast votes by Monday, 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 Abedin.
Earlier Monday evening, Clinton attended a Philadelphia rally with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, along with rock stars Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
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 Tuesday. 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.
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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.
After voting in New York Tuesday morning, Trump was scheduled to return to Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina and New Hampshire.
Both candidates will hold their end-of-campaign parties Tuesday night in midtown Manhattan.
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With files from CBC News