Trump, Clinton in tight battles in Ohio, Florida and elsewhere

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NEW YORK: Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton waged a tight battle in several crucial battleground states on Tuesday in their bitter race for the White House, although opinion polls showed Clinton had an edge in the closing hours of the campaign.

With voting completed in more than half of the 50 U.S. states, the race was too close to call in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, New Hampshire and Virginia, states that could be vital to deciding which contender wins the presidency.

Both candidates scored early victories in states where they were expected to win. Trump captured conservative states in the South and Midwest, while Clinton swept several states on the East Coast and Illinois in the Midwest.

Those victories were long predicted and not especially significant in the national race, which is likely to turn on a half-dozen toss-up states that will be crucial in the state-by-state fight for 270 Electoral College votes needed to win.

Clinton had more options to reach 270, with Trump needing a virtual sweep of about six toss-up states to win.

Clinton led Trump, 44 percent to 39 percent, in the last Reuters/Ipsos national tracking poll before Election Day. A Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation poll gave her a 90 percent chance of defeating Trump and becoming the first woman elected U.S. president.

In a campaign that focused more on the character of the candidates than on policy, Clinton, 69, a former U.S. secretary of state, and Trump, 70, a New York businessman, accused each other of being fundamentally unfit to lead the country.

Trump again raised the possibility on Tuesday of not accepting the election’s outcome, saying he had seen reports of voting irregularities. He gave few details and Reuters could not immediately verify the existence of such problems.

In North Carolina, the state elections board extended voting hours in eight Durham County locations after technical errors led to long waits.

Financial markets, betting exchanges and online trading platforms largely predicted a Clinton win, although Trump’s team said he could pull off a surprise victory like the June “Brexit” vote to pull Britain out of the European Union.

The economy, terrorism and healthcare ranked as the top three concerns facing Americans casting ballots in Tuesday’s election, according to an early reading from the Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll.

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