US elections: Butterflies but confidence at Trump party in New York

Supporters of Mr Donald Trump react as they watch state-by-state results unfold on a TV screen during election night at the New York Hilton Midtown. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - Sipping wine in a Manhattan ballroom and watching the results roll in, devoted Donald Trump supporters were on tenterhooks Tuesday (Nov 8) but quietly confident that the billionaire can ultimately clinch victory.

"I mean no one can call it, we're on pins and needles, it's crazy. It's going to come down to the wire," said Ms Omarosa Manigault, a former contestant on Mr Trump's The Apprentice who said she just spoke to the nominee as he watched the results with family in nearby Trump Tower.

"I have butterflies, I'm excited and then I look at the numbers in Florida and they go up for us, and then they go down for us and then one minute we're up," she added, glamorous in a smart dress and Trump broach, one of the first guests to arrive at the Hilton Midtown.

Select Trump supporters, campaign staff and volunteers from across the country descended after nightfall at Mr Trump's official "victory party" in the Grand Ballroom of the hotel close to Central Park.

Well-dressed Manhattan women in cocktail dresses, many red in homage to the Republican Party, and men in suits and Trump trucker hats watched Fox News on giant screens as they stood around tall tables or mingled with friends, laughing and joking.

There were gasps of amazement and frenzied photograph-taking of a bust of Trump in cake form, bar staff in black tie serving drinks and piles of "Women for Trump" and "Hispanics for Trump" placards there for the taking as the ballroom started to fill up.

"It looks good for Trump," said Mr Todd Cefaratti, a Trump supporter who flew in from Gilbert, Arizona, sounding almost surprised.

Attending the party with a friend, they were out to have a good time - "win or lose, hopefully win" but would be "men either way" regardless of the outcome, he said.

"He's starting out well in Florida," he said. "Trump has to win Florida. If he wins Florida and North Carolina, I'd say game's on. If either one of those are lost it's going to be tough," he said.

"I feel pretty good about it. We know a lot of the grassroots people, there's record people out there," he said. "If Trump loses tonight it's not the United States of America anymore. Unfortunately."

Supporters were enthusiastic and from different walks of life. There were first-time voters, a man in a wheelchair and Ms Mary Lee Ward, an African American woman in her 80s who lost her home and whom Mr Trump met on the campaign trail, relaxing in a chair, dressed in black lace and a hat.

"I was invited because I'm homeless and Mr Trump said he's going to help me," she said.

"I met the man in person. He's real," Ms Ward said. She said he kissed her on the cheek and treated her "like royalty". Mr John Fredericks, a radio host and Virginia state chairman of the Trump campaign, was super confident although he conceded the race was very tight.

"I'm fired up tonight, I'm very confident," he said. "This is split 50-50. We're closing, she's stumbling. We're peaking, she's faltering.

"This is a working class revolution in America," he said.

"The pundits don't understand it, the mainstream media doesn't understand it, they don't talk to real voters," he said.

"They're simply talking to the same other elite people in their wine and cheese and champagne echo chamber," he said.

Others were less bombastic but equally excited, if more anxious.

"I believe he's got a great shot," said 18-year-old Jesse Blanco, looking dapper in a dark suit, with a stars and stripes bowtie and Trump campaign buttons pinned to his lapels.

A student of politics, philosophy and economics at the University of Pennsylvania, he is one of the hardworking volunteers being rewarded for their efforts.

Mr Trump, he said simply, has inspired him.

"I think it's very exciting, I'm seeing the first few states closing, Trump getting those very expected victories, boosting morale," he said.

"I feel there's been such a tension all over America... but now kind of letting it all out, de-stressing and finally seeing the results of this year and a half-long election," he said.

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