9 Nov 2016

A timeline of the rocky road to the White House

9:50 am on 9 November 2016

Remember that time Donald Trump kicked a baby out of a rally for crying? No? Not surprising, given the startling twists and turns - and head-in-hands moments - that have characterised the 2016 US presidential election campaign.

Mural "When Pigs Fly" by Miami artists Rei Ramirez and Ivan Roque.

Many of the events that have happened during the election campaign would have been anticipated to occur only when pigs flew. (Mural by Miami artists Re Ramirez and Ivan Roque). Photo: AFP

The race began nearly two years ago when Jeb Bush and Chris Christie - who? - were among Republicans who began exploring the possibility of a White House run.

Back then, the idea of a Trump candidacy was a joke.

Things really began gearing up in February when the primaries and caucuses began, culminating in the nominating conventions in July.

Here's a run-down of a few highlights, and a lot of low-lights, since Clinton and Trump were formally nominated.

Glass ceiling shattered

Hillary Clinton clinches the Democratic presidential nomination at the party's convention in New York in July - the first woman to become the presidential candidate of a major party.

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Photo: AFP

Michelle Obama's convention speech: 'I'm with her'

The First Lady brings supporters to tears at the Democratic convention with a speech that was widely considered to be one of the best of the campaign. Without naming him, she criticised Mr Trump's behaviour on the campaign - telling delegates: "Our motto is: 'When they go low, we go high."

Melania Trump plagiarises Michelle Obama in a speech

Mr Trump's wife, Melania Trump, also captures headlines with her speech at the Republican convention - but for all the wrong reasons. After commentators note similarities between Mrs Trump's speech and one given by Michelle Obama in 2008, a Trump staffer admits she wrote down some of Mrs Obama's phrasing and included it in a draft that became the final speech. She tenders her resignation but the Trump family rejects it.

Melania Trump, the wife of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, speaks during a rally for her husband on November 3, 2016 in Pennsylvania.

Melania Trump Photo: AFP

Post-GOP convention meltdown

Donald Trump's campaign runs into trouble after he is endorsed as the Republican Party candidate in July, when he attacks the family of a Muslim American war hero, suggests second amendment supporters "do something" about Mrs Clinton, and even kicks a baby out of his rally for crying.

Democrat hacking

Wikileaks dumps a series of emails hacked from the mobile phones of Democrat Party officials. Some show officials had favoured Mrs Clinton over Bernie Sanders during the primary contest, raising questions of fairness. Several officials were forced to resign. In September the FBI announced it was investigating the hacks, which the government has blamed on Russia.

"I'm just not there yet"

Mr Trump escalates his war with his own party's leadership in August by refusing to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan in a Republican primary - saying "I'm just not quite there yet".

Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at a rally at the Mississippi Coliseum.

Photo: AFP

Warnings sounded

In August, 50 national security and foreign policy officials from Republican administrations dating back decades write an open letter to the Republican Party, warning Mr Trump will be the most reckless president in American history and would put the country's national security and well-being at risk.

Clinton collapses

Mrs Clinton is seen stumbling and partially collapsing as she gets into a car at a September 11 commemoration in New York, leading to intense speculation and questions about her health. It is later announced she has been diagnosed with pneumonia.

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives at the September 11 Commemoration Ceremony in New York City.

Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives at the September 11 Commemoration Ceremony in New York City. Photo: AFP

Questions over Trump's tax

Just days after Mrs Clinton accuses Mr Trump of tax avoidance during the first presidential debate, The New York Times publishes details of his tax records that show he could have legally avoided paying income tax for up to 18 years. Trump's camp responds by saying he knows the tax code better than any other candidate in history and "is the only one that knows how to fix it".

Trump admires Putin's leadership

While taking questions from military veterans, Mr Trump praises Vladimir Putin's "great control" over his country and his 82 percent approval rating. In response, President Barack Obama calls Mr Trump 'wacky'.

Sexual harassment claims

A video is released of Mr Trump bragging about groping women just ahead of the second presidential debate. Several women then come out to accuse him of sexual assault or inappropriate touching with one saying "he was like an octopus". He denies all the allegations. The tape sparks further rifts among the Republicans, with dozens of elected officials saying they could not longer support him and calling on him to step aside.

Lawyer Gloria Alfred enters a press conference with Karena Virginia, who said Donald Trump, who she had never met before, had touched her breast in 1998.

Lawyer Gloria Alfred enters a press conference with Karena Virginia, who said Donald Trump, who she had never met before, had touched her breast in 1998. Photo: AFP

'It's rigged'

Just three weeks out from election day and as his poll numbers drop, Mr Trump claims the election is rigged by the Democrats and media. During the third debate, he refuses to say whether he'll accept the result of the election - an unprecedented statement for a major party nominee.

The FBI and Clinton's emails

Just 11 days before the election the FBI chief James Comey tells Congress his agency is looking at fresh evidence related to Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to send classified information, despite clearing her of any wrongdoing earlier in the year. His comments spark an intense political firestorm amid claims of interference in the race for the White House. Two days out from the election, he declares there is nothing in the new emails to change the agency's earlier finding.

James Comey has today written to Congress to report nothing illegal had been found in the further investigation of Hilary Clinton's emails.

James Comey has today written to Congress to report nothing illegal had been found in the further investigation of Hilary Clinton's emails. Photo: Supplied

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