Jittery public awaits news as presidency remains in flux

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Election personnel examines a ballot as vote counting in the general election continues at State Farm Arena, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

PHILADELPHIA – They clung to their cocktails and proclaimed themselves sick with dread. They relentlessly checked the news and went outdoors for fresh air. They bemoaned a wipeout wave that never came and held out hope their favored candidate still would eke out a win.

With the fate of the White House undecided Wednesday, a jittery and bitterly divided America braced for rocky days to come and the possibility a man they despise would be leading the nation.

“I can’t turn on the news. I don’t feel good at all,” said 61-year-old Tammy Lewandowski, a supporter of President Donald Trump in Milwaukee, where former Vice President Joe Biden emerged as the state's winner. That's an outcome Lewandowski fears will amount to a loss of law and order and rioting. “I feel like we lost our country. I don’t know that anything will be the same again.”

On the other side of the divide but just as troubled, women gathering at a Fems for Dems gathering in the affluent Detroit suburb of Bloomfield Hills moaned and dropped their heads into their hands as the returns came in early Wednesday, some considering switching from red wine to tequila. Even as they held out hope, they knew they hadn’t won what they wanted: a nationwide repudiation of Trump.

“I honestly feel like I’m going to have a heart attack before the end of this,” said Denice Asbell. “I feel like it’s slipping. I’m scared to say this out loud, but the potential for us to see the win that we wanted is slipping away.”

Asbell’s daughter, 13-year-old Rhegan Stallworth, shared the angst as she braced for the outcome in a country where many don’t understand the beliefs of the opposing side.

“It’s like putting your life in the hands of a nation that you don’t trust,” said Stallworth.

Votes were still being counted across the country and likely will be for days to come as Biden and Trump both remain short of the necessary 270 electoral votes to win. Nothing was out of the ordinary in that process beyond a predicted surge of mail-in votes, but the lack of certainty wore on a public exhausted by a seemingly endless campaign, and all the attacks, vitriol and costly TV commercials that go with it.