Riding on a strong anti-establishment vote, Republican Donald Trump scored dramatic wins in key states to take a firm grip on the path to US Presidency, stunning Hillary Clinton’s camp.
Snatching a few states that were projected to go the Clinton way, Trump proved pundits and most media projections wrong and led with 244 electoral votes against his Democratic opponent’s 215.
The winner will need 270 electoral votes to control the White House.
With projections from most of the states clear, there was despondency in the Clinton campaign headquarters where many openly wept. Trump supporters were jubilant, repeatedly cheering the Manhattan billionaire.
The New York Times — for the first time — gave Trump a whopping 95 per cent chances of becoming the next US President, proving wrong everyone who had predicted a slim Clinton win in one of the most bitterly contested US Presidential elections.
Trump, who only weeks ago looked outsmarted by a confident Clinton, pulled off the battleground states Florida, Ohio and North Carolina, his votes coming mainly from white, working class and rural areas.
Tuesday’s election capped months of ugly, personal attacks that took a heavy toll on American voters, many of whom were eager to see a change in Washington.
The markets in the US and elsewhere took a big hit.
CNN projections gave Trump a victory in a majority of the states including Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Wyoming, North Dakota, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Lousiana, Mississippi and Idaho.
The former Secretary of State’s biggest win came from California after early projected victories in New York, Texas, Vermont, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, the District of Columbia and Hawaii.
Both Clinton and Trump earlier voted along with their families in New York on the morning of the election day on Tuesday.
Clinton appeared to be leading Trump by a few per cent points in the early national polls but Trump — who had always been confident of winning — came back strongly and began taking one key state after another.
States and counties which had voted for outgoing President Barack Obama only four years ago appeared to have changed their mind.
With not many hours left for all results to come in, experts began debating what pushed a majority of the American voters to pick a man who had emerged hugely controversial during the election campaign.
Some voter sentiment gave a hint.
In New York, Peter Vanden Bos said he voted for Clinton because he thought Trump was divisive, unqualified and unfit for the presidency.
Wearing a bright red cap with “Make America Free Again,” Trump supporter Alex Burlak said he believed Clinton was the most corrupt politician in US history and “never told the truth in public, ever”.
In Frederick Samuel Community Centre in Harlem, northern New York City, voter Desiree Kennedy did not want to disclose whom she had voted for, but said: “Honestly, I don’t care about either of the candidates.”
It seemed just a few weeks ago that Trump’s campaign was doomed following the release of tapes in which he made outrageous sexist comments. But the Republican, despite dissent in his own camp, was able to spring back.