Despite a palpable buzz in the air at the start of the evening, the crowd grew quiet as the swing states of North Carolina and Florida went to the Republican presidential nominee. Michigan, New Hampshire and Wisconsin all look as though they could swing for Trump, as well.
“I feel nauseous,” one top campaign official for Clinton told PEOPLE before slipping behind a black curtain beyond which reporters were barred.
Although cheers erupted when Clinton took California, the crowd cheers are few and very far between, and people seem to be in disbelief. Many are doing napkin math to see if a win is attainable.
In the hall where Clinton is set to deliver her speech — whether in victory or defeat — supporters sat slumped on the carpet before a stage empty of all but one imposing wooden lectern. Two veteran outside advisers to Clinton were spotted heading for the doors just before Florida was called for Trump. “We’re going home,” said one, asking to remain anonymous. “Can’t stand the tension in this room.”
Inside the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City at Clinton’s election-night party, people are staring at the many screens waiting for the results. Barbara Tate, a longtime supporter of the Democratic nominee, said she was growing increasingly nervous as her friends already left.
“My heart is hanging on every word here,” she said. “I’m on the verge of tears. I’m so upset right now. I have a 20 year old daughter in college, and I just feel if he gets to be president… it’s all over. It’s just … nothing. I feel like we’re going to go back to a really scary world of hate and prejudice and anti-woman. But [holding out hope] ’til the last second.”
The dread continued as the night turned into morning. Supporters sat in the bleachers looking resigned. A string of young women was seen crying in the ladies’ room at the Javits Center.
Two friends who came down from Connecticut were debating whether they should stay or leave.
Goldwyn called the October surprise of FBI re-opening the Clinton email case “one of the reasons we’re seeing what we’re seeing here tonight,” saying that by the time FBI director James Comey admitted the emails revealed nothing new “it was too late.”
Meanwhile, Trump supporters are celebrating. Those gathered are singing “God Bless America” and chanting “USA USA.”
“They’ve been very confident in this win,” a veteran Republican campaign advisor tells PEOPLE. “The enthusiasm you see on the road is palpable … You can cut it with a knife.”
“It’s only been two weeks since Hillary was leading in the polls, but he closed the gap and turned it around. For the last seven days, everyone inside the Pence campaign has been very confident in a win. We knew we would get Ohio. Florida is ours. North Carolina is a wonderful surprise. Trump is a rock star when you deal with him. He can talk to anybody. And Pence is the same.”
With reporting by Allison Adato, Mary Green and Sandra Sobieraj