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Adrian Rutherford

US election campaign over, but battle just beginning

Adrian Rutherford

The campaign battles are over, but the fight for the White House may only be starting.

This morning, and after a night of high drama, came competing narratives from the two men who would be president.

From Donald Trump, an extraordinary intervention, accusing opponents of trying to steal the election. In a rallying cry to supporters, he raged against a “fraud on the American public”, pledging to take his fight to the Supreme Court.

Earlier, in a brief address in his home state of Delaware, Joe Biden told Democrats they were on course for victory.

Appearing on stage alongside wife Jill, he said: “We feel good about where we are, we really do. I'm here to tell you tonight, we believe we're on track to win this election.”

Keep the faith, he urged them, promising: “We’re going to win this.”

Perhaps. For most observers, it is still too close to call.

Both camps have lawyered up for what could be a protracted and bitter courtroom battle.

As legal wrangles loom, America remains wounded by the deep divisions cutting through its divided states.

The fear had always been that Trump would contest the result, seeking to discredit the integrity of the system.

In pre-election Tweets he has cast doubts on mail-in voting, warned of voter fraud and suggested the election could be rigged - all unsubstantiated.

Now, emboldened by a night that was much better than many expected, he lobbed a proverbial hand grenade onto a tinderbox, pouring fuel on the flames which rage amid a dangerous climate of division and mistrust.

In a 5.49am Twitter post, and moments after Biden’s address, Trump insisted he was on course to “win big” and be returned to office.

He Tweeted: “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!.

It was an extraordinary intervention, pouring doubt on the legitimacy of the democratic process.

Immediately Twitter slapped a health warning on it.

"Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process,” it cautioned.

An hour or so later, striking a triumphant note in the White House, Trump spoke of “phenomenal” results.

With millions of ballots still to count - and key battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin still to declare - he still claimed victory.

"A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise" those who had voted for him, he said.

He added: “This is a fraud on the American public, this is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election... frankly we did win this election.”

He pledged to take the fight to the Supreme Court.

It was fighting talk, and there is no question Trump is up for the fight.

Whatever the final outcome of this election, it has not delivered a repudiation of Trumpism. In some places he scored better than 2016, such as Florida, where he won support among Latino voters.

And as the battle for the White House - and the splintered soul of these divided states - enters its end game, the tone may have been set.

The mood is toxic, a country is on edge. Around Washington, buildings are boarded up.

An election which some had hoped would bring healing and unity, certainty and conviction, has delivered nothing of the sort.

America has decided, but the people’s verdict is still far from clear.

When will we know? It could be days, possibly weeks.

Trump’s intervention has raised the stakes in an already febrile atmosphere.

Once again, this great nation holds its breath.

Belfast Telegraph