CLEVELAND (OHIO) - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is projected to win a narrow, though not unexpected victory, over Democrat Hillary Clinton in "Kingmaker State" Ohio, further unnerving her supporters as contests in other swing states and neighbouring Michigan are proving to be closer to call than expected.
NBC TV projected Mr Trump would win the state at around 10.15pm Ohio time, showing Mr Trump with a 2,257,803 to 1,783,013 for Mrs Clinton with 75 per cent of the vote counted.
While experts had already put Ohio in Mr Trump's column in earlier projections, they expected her to win in states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, which would have still given her an easier path to the White House than her opponent.
But, when the projection came in, loud shouts of dismay went up from Clinton supporters who had been dancing to acid jazz as a DJ was spinning records at her campaign headquarters, putting a damper on the festive mood.
Cuyahoga County chairman Stuart Garson immediately cautioned those gathered. "Don't panic. Relax. This thing is far from over. Cuyahoga County is coming through for Hillary," he said.
The last time a Democrat lost Ohio and still won the White House was in 1960 when John F Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon. No Republican has ever lost Ohio and won the presidency, however - but it now appeared Mr Trump has won it.
Local NBC affiliate WKYC showed that the Republicans took a staggering 80 of Ohio's 88 counties in running up the victory, losing only urban areas such as Cleveland, Youngstown, Toledo and Cincinnati, and those with liberal populations of students and teachers such as Columbus, home of Ohio State University, and Athens, where Ohio University is located.
The large swathes of rural Ohio were all solid red on the TV station's map of Ohio.
Pundits were quick to point to decline in turnout among African-American in the state's urban areas, notably Cuyahoga County's Cleveland metropolitan area.
Country board of election officials said the vote was down by at least 15 per cent over 2012.
Earlier in the day, CNN national correspondent Martin Savidge reporting from Parma, Ohio, where The Straits Times earlier interviewed a strong Trump supporter who runs a small nut and bolt supply operation near a shut-down GM auto plant, said voter turnout has been "robust" in the state but that the early voting had been up in all parts of Ohio, especially in hardcore red southern parts of Ohio.
In fact, the only part it was down was at Cuyahoga County, known as the old "Obama coalition". This despite a last-minute gala concert for Mrs Clinton staged by music mogul and rapper Jay Z, his superstar wife Beyonce and other popular black artistes on Friday, and an follow-up appearance on Sunday afternoon with the Cleveland Cavalier's NBA local hero, LeBron James.
As the news sank in further that Ohio was lost, the crowd at Mrs Clinton's downtown Cleveland headquarters began to leave. Mrs Meryl Johnson, a Democrat who did win election to the Ohio State Board of Education, said: "I'm disappointed in the people who are supporting Donald Trump. He's not the kind of person that I would ever want to represent my country. He's also causing other countries to look at the United States in a different way than they have in the past."
She said she did not understand why people supported Mr Trump, but she still had hope for her party's candidate,. "I still believe am confident that there will be enough people in this country who respect democracy enough to elect Hillary Clinton president."
Not surprisingly, across the Trump Country-Clinton Country divide to Cleveland's west, supporters of Mr Trump were celebrating their Ohio victory over prawns, pizza, brownies, and Malbec wine in an old historic building with high ceilings now occupied by the Crop Bistro.
Mr Zdenka Necasek, 68, who emigrated in 1976 from what is now the Czech Republic, explained why he supported the New York billionaire.
"I think more people are mad because there are not enough jobs and Obamacare didn't work," he said. " I am retired, I am fine but younger people are paying so much more."
He added: "I like Trump because he is a very good businessman. He cares about people around him, about veterans,. I have heard many stories how he has helped others and nobody has written about that."
Another man at the Trump party, Mr John A. D'urso Jr, seemed more surprised at the results of his vote.
"I didn't vote for Trump," said the principal with Cleveland's Kahuna Capital, who is in his 50s. "I voted against Hillary."
- With additional reporting by Nirmal Ghosh