So reports of Donald Trump’s political demise were exaggerated. The Biden landslide predicted by many US pollsters failed to materialise.
America’s long awaited election night ended with no declared winner and neither candidate accepting defeat.
Instead President Trump told his supporters, gathered without masks inside the White House, that “frankly we won this”.
He denounced opponents who dare to claim otherwise as plotters of a “major fraud” on the American people.
Joe Biden also maintained his campaign remained “on track” for victory. Quoting his Irish American grandfather, Ambrose Finnegan, Biden urged his supporters to “Keep the Faith!” insisting the Democrats would eventually win the day.
For those of us who covered the knife edge election of 2000, when George W. Bush squeezed out Al Gore, there is a sense of history repeating itself. As then, a prolonged period of electoral and legal disputes – potentially going all the way to the US Supreme Court – appears inevitable.
However this time the geography is markedly different. The Trump campaign got an early boost by capturing Florida, the sunshine state which was at the centre of the month-long drama 20 years ago.
Much greater support among Hispanic voters than predicted appears to have buoyed up the incumbent in states like Florida and Texas.
Despite that, it’s far from over. A mountain of postal votes remains to be counted, especially in the key “rust belt” states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Those were states where four years ago traditional Democrat blue collar workers worried about the disappearance of their jobs in America’s steel and coal industries deserted Hillary Clinton to give the businessman Trump’s “Art Of The Deal” approach a try.
Now President Trump wants the counting of those “rust belt” postal votes halted, claiming – without any evidence – they may be open to widespread abuse.
Democrats will demand that every last “mail in” ballot with a November 3 postmark must be included in the tally. They are keenly aware that in places like Pennsylvania – the state where Joe Biden was born – the postal votes could overturn an initial Republican lead.
As in Florida in 2000, both sides have “lawyered up”, although this time – given the different climates enjoyed by the swing states – the lawyers better bring heavier overcoats.
Here, the palpable disappointment of Biden backer Claire Hanna and the excitement of Trump supporter Ian Paisley, interviewed on BBC Good Morning Ulster, tells a story. Those hoping for a radical change of tack in Washington will have to bide their time.
London, Dublin and Brussels will maintain a diplomatic silence until they know who they will be dealing with in the White House. But it’s not hard to imagine their hopes and fears.
With Brexit in mind, Trump’s strong performance may give Boris Johnson a reason to be optimistic. As a fan of Brexit, a second term President Trump would be likely to prioritise a UK US trade deal and take a more understanding attitude if London seeks to derogate from any aspect of the Northern Ireland trade protocol.
By contrast, Brussels and Dublin may secretly be keeping their fingers crossed about Biden’s postal votes. A Democrat President is more likely to prioritise an EU US trade deal, reflecting the stance taken by Barack Obama during the Brexit referendum campaign when he warned that Britain would have to go to “the back of the queue”.
Moreover Joe Biden’s tweeted concern about a “hard border” in Ireland makes it clear he will take a highly sceptical view of any attempt by London to rewrite the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol.
If Biden is declared winner, Boris Johnson could experience something of the “cold shoulder” Bill Clinton showed John Major during his transition period back in 1992.
However both London and Washington know that – putting Brexit to one side – there are wider foreign policy concerns both governments have to consider.
On issues like climate change, relations with Iran and the maintenance of traditional alliances, many British, Irish and European diplomats will share a hope that a Democrat victory would spell a return to some old certainties. On this side of the Atlantic, many governments will breathe a sigh of relief if a Biden presidency ditches Donald Trump’s impulsive lurches between isolationism and showbiz summit diplomacy.
It’s unlikely any future US administration will play the kind of high profile role here which President Clinton did in the 1990s. But if Joe Biden wins a visit to both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic appears a strong possibility.
Biden’s decision to use his own reading of Seamus Heaney’s “The Cure At Troy” with its immortal line about “hope and history” rhyming as the soundtrack for one of his campaign videos emphasised the importance he places on his Irish cultural heritage.
It’s a level of knowledge and interest which Stormont politicians and UK ministers should not underestimate if they find themselves dealing with a Biden White House in the future.
However, at this stage we don’t know whether that’s something they will have to worry about.
Instead the “Trump Show” could have another act.
Let’s leave the last word for now to the former US Envoy to Northern Ireland, Richard Haass.
Surveying the continuing uncertainty left after election night, Ambassador Haass tweeted “Whatever the ultimate outcome of this election, this is a deeply divided country along political and cultural lines alike. Bodes badly for governing at home and for building a consensus as to the country’s role in the world. Sobering by any and every measure.”
At first glance it could be just another cottage in rural Ireland. But the small blue sign reveals the unlikely link between the quaint, whitewashed farmhouse in the Tyrone countryside and the most famous address on the planet.