THERE was an audible gasp of surprise when Perth USAsia Centre professor Gordon Flake analysed the firming position of US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at the University of WA at noon.
The US Consulate-organised election watch had been monitoring the unfolding results throughout the morning.
“The time for offence for Hillary is over, it time for defence,” Prof Flake said.
“If she wins Pennsylvanian, Wisconsin, Michigan and Nevada she has a chance of winning, but if she loses one, Trump wins.”
He said the battle would be in the industrial heartland states where disgruntled white, middle-aged men who had lost jobs could decide who got the world’s most powerful job.
However, barely an hour later Mrs Clinton’s chances looked in even more peril, with some election counts giving her just 215 electoral votes to Mr Trump’s 244.
The potential shock outcome has already adversely affected world and Australian stock markets.
“I’m very nervous that he is getting so close because the language he uses when talking about African-Americans is like the time of the Civil Rights Movement, when he talks about monitoring polling booths,” former Pennsylvanian Mary-Ann Wright, an African-American, said at the election watch.
The watch was attended by about 400 Americans and Australians, including former US Ambassador Kim Beazley and WA opposition leader Mark McGowan.
The majority of attendees were either students or followers of US politics, and were looking for some indication of who would control the nation’s power across the globe.
Some said they were also interested in its affect on Australia’s security and economy, after a marathon 18-month election.
“What’s been alarming this time has been the amount of character attacks, rather than concentration on policy,” Perth Modern School politics student Harrison Green (15) said.
US Consul-General Rachel Cooke, who has only been in the job in Perth for three months, said she had already noticed how Australians were very knowledgeable about her country’s politics.
“But I’m not really surprised by the amount of interest in this election, because we’ve seen it across the globe,” Ms Cooke said.
Counting is expected to continue into this evening.