The divisive tone of this year’s presidential campaign showed no sign of receding even as the race reached its end Tuesday, with onlookers booing Donald Trump as he entered his Manhattan polling place.
While the incident was to be expected to some extent — he was voting at P.S. 59 elementary school in Manhattan, a liberal bastion — it also hinted at the polarization that could contribute to continued gridlock and political dysfunction regardless of who wins the election.
It remains unclear whether Trump or his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, will claim victory Tuesday night. And even if Clinton wins and Democrats manage to retake the Senate, they will have just the slimmest of margins there. Republicans appear poised to keep control of the House, though they could lose seats.
Longtime conservative activist Richard Viguerie said in an interview that he and like-minded activists hope the election delivers the White House to the GOP and maintains its control of Congress. But he predicted that no matter what happens, a coalition of “constitutional conservatives” and Trump supporters would drive the Republican Party’s decisions after the election.
“Basically, the establishment Republicans have self-destructed. They have written themselves out of leadership going forward,” Viguerie said. “If Hillary is elected, hopefully there will be gridlock,” he added. “Absolutely.”
And Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) said the fact that Senate Democrats have managed to bottle up so much of the legislation passed in the House has led to heightened tensions between GOP leaders and rank-and-file members.
“It is the systemic issue that plagues the person in charge, no matter who they are,” Franks said.
But Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg, who heads the think tank NDN, said Republicans could face a major backlash for obstructing legislation if Clinton “has a convincing victory tonight, and Democrats win the Senate.”
“If Ryan and whoever the Republican leader is on the Senate side try to obstruct in this next Congress the way they have this Congress, she will destroy them,” he said. “The country will not put up with this.”
Some voters headed to the polls Tuesday hoping that the election could change a dynamic that has frustrated Americans from both parties.
Steve Glanz, 42, was registered Republican and had supported Ohio Gov. John Kasich over Donald Trump in Pennsylvania’s April primary. But once inside his south Philadelphia polling place, he voted for Clinton and for the Democrats’ Senate challenger, Katie McGinty.
“I voted basically straight Democrat,” he said. “We need to get some Supreme Court justices confirmed at some point. Having the Senate belong to the same party as the president would help that. If they keep letting the justices die off, once it’s under five members, they can’t even render decisions.”
But many Republicans still expect their party to continue to probe Clinton’s use of a private email server and possible conflicts of interest raised by her role at the Clinton Foundation, which could complicate her relationship with Congress if she wins the White House.
Lori Schwabenbauer, 54, voted in Chester County, Pa., then drove into Philadelphia to celebrate her birthday. She is a Republican, and Trump and Sen. Pat Toomey received her vote, but she was expecting a Clinton win. Asked whether she would want Republicans to continue probing Clinton’s scandals if she won, Schwabenbauer gave a qualified yes.
“I don’t think anyone’s above the law,” she said, “but I don’t want her to be jailed just because I don’t like her.”
And Trump, who was joined by his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka as he voted a few blocks from Trump Tower, refused to say for certain Tuesday whether he would concede the race if TV networks and others call it for Clinton.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.
Asked about his sense of early returns, Trump responded, “Everything’s very good.”
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, officials with the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee expressed optimism that the GOP nominee would prevail, thanks in part to the party’s beefed-up field program.
By Election Day, the RNC had deployed 5,250 paid organizers and 2,350 trained fellows around the country, a huge increase over the 876 staffers that the party and then-nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign jointly had in 2012, officials said.
Clinton campaign spokeswoman Lily Adams, meanwhile, emailed reporters to say that “more than 10,000 volunteers were on the doors for our first 8AM shift in battleground states with thousands more on the phones.”
By early afternoon Tuesday, voters across the country were making their choices, with long lines in many polling stations. In North Hollywood, Calif., some voters brought beach chairs to stake out a place in line before dawn. At one polling station in Detroit, people waited up to 90 minutes to reach the ballot booth.
At Stonewall Middle School in Manassas, Va., nearly 170 people were lined up when voting began at 6 a.m.
“I’m a determined voter,” said 37-year-old Michael Barnes, an account executive for Freddie Mac who showed up at 5 a.m. and backed a straight Democratic ticket. “I’m feeling relieved that I’ve at least done my part.”
For Laurie Jarman, an office manager in Fairfax County, it was antipathy for Clinton that drove her vote.
“I don’t know that I trust him, either, but I feel that Hillary will be worse,” said Jarman, 46, who arrived at Stonewall Middle School about half-an-hour after Barnes.
Even an early arrival at the polls in Virginia’s capital, Richmond, did not guarantee Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), the first vote. He, his wife Anne Holton and his parents arrived at roughly 5:50 a.m. at The Hermitage, but the resident association’s 89-year old president, Minerva Turpin, beat them to it.
The Kaines, accompanied by the senator’s father Al and mother Kathy, showed their photo IDs to poll workers and received fill-in-the bubble ballots. They fed them into the voting machine and walked outside, where some of the men and women waiting in a long line outside broke into applause.
After voting in Richmond, Kaine said that if he and Clinton were “fortunate enough to win this evening,” they would work to heal the deep rifts in the country that this year’s race had exposed.
“In the tone of the things that we say, in the team that we put together, and the policies that we promote, we have to show that we want to govern for all, not just those who voted for us,” he said.
Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, cast their ballots at Douglas G. Grafflin Elementary in Chappaqua, N.Y., at 8 a.m. Just four hours earlier, they had arrived from an early-morning rally in North Carolina.
Clinton, who plans to spend much of the rest of the day at home before heading to a Manhattan hotel to await returns, was greeted by chants of “Madam President!” as she walked outside.
“It is the most humbling feeling because I know how much responsibility goes with this and so many people are counting on the outcome of this election, what it means for our country,” she told reporters, when asked what it felt like to cast her ballot. “And I’ll do the best I can if we’re fortunate enough to be elected.”
Asked by a reporter if she thought about her mother, Dorothy Rodham, who was born in the year before women gained the right to vote and who died in 2011, Clinton responded with a smile: “Oh, I did.”
Hundreds of miles away Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) — one of the Clintons’ closest friends and biggest boosters — cheerfully waited in line for an hour at Richmond City Library before casting his ballot at 8:20 a.m.
“Yeah, it was an hour wait, but the greatest hour of my life,” McAuliffe said. “You think of the history of this election. I believe we’re going to elect the first woman in the history of the United States of America. We’re going to have the first Virginian on the ticket, Tim Kaine, first time in 100 years. I can give an hour.”
The historic and unusual nature of the race continued to reverberated far from voting centers as well.
At the Rochester, N.Y., grave site of suffragist Susan B. Anthony, who died in 1906 without getting the right to cast a vote, Mount Hope Cemetery officials extended its hours until 9 p.m. as people pasted “I Voted” stickers on her headstone.
Meanwhile, former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling — a Trump supporter who has vowed to challenge Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in 2018 — deleted a tweet in which he praised a T-shirt that advocates lynching reporters.
Posting a photo of the shirt — which reads: “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required” — Schilling wrote, “Ok, so much awesome here.” Later he described it as “a joke” and “100% sarcasm.”
In Manassas, where there is both a sizable immigrant population and support for Trump, James Bowers, 72, said working-class Americans like himself have seen their personal liberties erode with a Democrat in the White House.
“These eight years are the worst eight years I’ve seen in my life,” Bowers said. “It’s become a dictatorship, and if Hillary wins, she’ll continue that dictatorship.”
But 43-year-old Yesenia Luna, the daughter of an immigrant from El Salvador, said she voted for Clinton because “we have to be the difference for all the other Latinos in this country.”
In a sign of how close the race remains, Clinton closed her campaign early Tuesday with an energetic rally in Raleigh, accompanied by her husband and their daughter Chelsea. Singer Lady Gaga performed for an audience that nearly to a person raised hands when asked how many had voted early.
Meanwhile, Trump took the stage at his final pre-election rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., at 12:30 a.m. Tuesday — capping a five-state final push that started in Florida on Monday morning and weaved though North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
“Today is our independence day. Today the American working class is going to strike back,” he told the late-night audience that gathered at a convention center to heat him speak.
Well before Trump was done speaking, a substantial portion of Trump’s crowd started making its way toward the exits.
In his remarks, the Republican nominee said it was “almost hard to believe” that Election Day had arrived, as he reflected back to the beginning of the Republican primaries and the many candidates he faced and eventually defeated.
On Wall Street, markets built on Monday’s surge — the biggest single-day rise since March — amid polls suggesting Clinton’s nationwide lead was holding. The Dow Jones industrial average was up solidly in midday trading.
FBI Director James B. Comey said Sunday that the FBI had found nothing to alter its months-old decision not to seek charges against the former secretary of state for her use of a private email server.
As Clinton and Trump remained at center stage Tuesday, the two men who have dominated Democratic politics for the last two decades — Barack Obama and Bill Clinton — were relegated to supportive roles.
Obama did tape six radio interviews Tuesday from the White House, talking to hosts whose listeners live in Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Monday afternoon, he walked through the White House colonnade and pointed at the cameras held by members of the White House press corps. “Go vote,” he instructed their viewers. “It’s up to you.”
Gearan reported from White Plains, N.Y.; Sullivan from New York, and Eilperin from Washington. David Weigel in Philadelphia, Laura Vozzella in Richmond, Va., Antonio Olivo in Manassas, Va., Kelsey Snell in HJanesville, Wis. and Brian Murphy in Washington contributed to this report.