Manchester, United States: Five states in one day, addressing euphoric crowds of thousands — Donald Trump reluctantly brought to a close an exhilarating and extraordinary 511-day election campaign that has upended America.
If he wins the White House on Tuesday, it’s a roadshow that Americans can only expect more of: his unique blend of showmanship, eye-raising insults of his opponents and hyperbolic promises of salvation.
The 70-year-old man who has joked about taking a long vacation if he doesn’t win must be exhausted, but the Republican revelled on Tuesday in the adulation of crowd after crowd as he battled to the very last minute to pull off a shock upset against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“Dream big because with your vote, we’re just one day away from the change you have been waiting for your entire life,” he bellowed to around 10,000 supporters in Manchester at his penultimate rally.
“We are going to win the great state of New Hampshire, and we are going to win back the White House!” he cried — his rallying cry the same at each rally, just tailor-made for the state of the moment.
With the wildest presidential race in generations nearly in the rear-view mirror, Trump has stalked battlegrounds and Democrat-leaning states, desperate to persuade Americans they would be better served by a political outsider than establishment favorite Clinton.
“Our failed political establishment has delivered nothing but poverty, nothing but problems, nothing but losses,” he told 5,000 people in Raleigh, North Carolina, reducing the essence of his long and controversial campaign into a handful of soundbites.
“They get rich by making America poor.”
Most final polls hand Clinton a broad but shallow lead, but if Trump loses, it won’t be for lack of trying.
Ensconced in the leather-seated luxury of his personal 757, and a brief replacement presumably when his pilot exhausted his mandated flight hours, the Manhattan real estate magnate jetted to a dozen cities in two days.
It was a non-stop cross-country endeavor, carpet bombing Democratic strongholds like Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Virginia in a bid to flip blue states, while holding all the ground his predecessor Mitt Romney won in 2012.
Despite reports about desperate final days behind the scenes — one anonymous advisor compared it to the bunker before Hitler killed himself in a New York magazine article — the grandfather of eight’s stamina has been extraordinary.
On Saturday, he logged nearly 4,500 miles (7,240 kilometers), followed by 3,000 Sunday. He blitzed through five states in Monday, ending with a midnight rally in Michigan.
He began his day of reckoning in the make-or-break state of Florida — vital to his White House hopes.
“My poll numbers are going through the roof,” he said in Sarasota, his hyperbole increasing as the clock ticked down.
“You watch what’s going to happen.”
At each campaign stop, Trump insists he is doing better than polls suggest, proclaiming his support among African Americans and Latinos, despite scant evidence of significant minority presence at his rallies.
Ever the populist, if easily distracted, he called on one supporter wearing a rubber, Halloween-style Trump mask to hand it over.
“Nice head of hair, I’ll say that,” Trump reflected as he held the mask close to his face, photographers eagerly snapping away.
Obama won North Carolina in 2008 but lost it four years later. Trump holds the narrowest of leads in the southern state.
Clinton was aiming to claw back some of that ground by holding a high-profile midnight rally in Raleigh late Monday, with pop star Lady Gaga in tow.
North Carolina’s Republican governor, Pat McCrory, acknowledged to AFP that the race in his state now was “all based upon turnout.”
Trump has jibed at suggestions that celebrities performing for Clinton would get people to the polls.
He has railed against the “language” used by Jay-Z at a Clinton rally in Ohio and, after rock legend Bruce Springsteen performed in Philadelphia, said it was “demeaning” to the political process to listen to a musician, saying that Clinton alone “can’t fill a room.”
And then rocker Ted Nugent played before Trump’s last rally in Michigan.
Trump jetted into Manchester from the Pennsylvania Rust Belt city of Scranton, where Clinton’s father was born but where the Republican is counting on the blue-collar working class. Before that, it was Raleigh.
Clinton pulled out all the stops in Pennsylvania with a mega-event of her own, that her campaign said drew 40,000 people featuring the Obamas, ex-president Bill Clinton, Jon Bon Jovi and Springsteen.
But if there were no celebrities in Manchester, other than Trump, his photogenic adult children and his announcement that he had the vote of American football star quarterback Tom Brady, supporters gathered more than eight hours ahead of schedule, bringing snacks and fold-out chairs.
“The energy is just going to be amazing,” said first-time voter Jack Keefe, 18, who took off school in neighboring Massachusetts to drive 90 minutes to see Trump, whom he views as a role model.
“I think that if he loses, I’ve just got to pray that Hillary Clinton isn’t as bad as I think she is.”
Trump wraps up his whirlwind day in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a state where Clinton is ahead in polling.
Trump’s campaign nevertheless insists the race there is tied, and that voter enthusiasm could put Trump over the top.
But in New Hampshire, fist pumping and clapping his hands, grinning from ear to ear and pointing to the crowd he appeared, unable, it seemed to tear himself away.
“I’m really happy I did this. It’s been an amazing experience,” he said with something akin to wistfulness.