June 16, 2015: Trump declares candidacy.
"I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created," Donald Trump, the colourful real estate developer and reality-TV star, told a modest crowd in the atrium of Trump Tower in Manhattan. He had never held political office and few in the political or media establishment took him seriously. Over the next 11 months, his bombastic style drowned out the voices of his 16 Republican rivals and he emerged as the party's presidential nominee. In that first speech, his description of Mexican immigrants as "rapists" who are bringing "drugs" and "crime" into the country would dog him throughout the campaign and contribute to a surge of Hispanic support for the Democrats.
June 7, 2016: Clinton secures Democratic nomination.
Hillary Clinton – a former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state – consolidated enough behind-the-scenes support that no serious Democratic heavyweights wanted to take her on for the presidential nomination. Even Vice-President Joe Biden sat it out. Her only rivals were the little-known Maryland ex-governor Martin O'Malley and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, whose progressive supporters carried him through a run of primary victories in the spring. The Clinton campaign had planned to wrap up the nomination by mid-March, according to a leaked e-mail, but it wasn't until a June win in California that Ms. Clinton finally secured enough delegates to be the country's first female major-party presidential candidate.
July 5, 2016: FBI clears Clinton … for now.
Ms. Clinton had endured years of investigation, first for what she knew about the attacks against the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, then for why she used a private e-mail server to send sensitive government messages. Finally, it all seemed to come to an end when FBI Director James Comey made the unusual step of publicly announcing there would be no criminal charges for "extremely careless" use of private e-mail.
July 15, 2016: Trump picks Pence.
After a slog through the muddy nomination process, few high-ranking Republicans wanted to get too close to their controversial candidate. In the end, Mr. Trump plucked Governor Mike Pence from Indiana to be his running mate. While Republican congressional leaders such as Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell were required to attend the national convention the following week, many others stayed home – most notably former presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, and former nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Sept. 26, 2016: The first of three debates.
More than 80 million Americans tuned in on TV and online to watch the candidates' first match, when Mr. Trump claimed he had a "much better temperament" than the Democrat, and Ms. Clinton hammered at the Republican's refusal to release his tax returns. Most pundits and polls called all three debates for Ms. Clinton.
Oct. 7, 2016: Trump tape is leaked.
Though Ms. Clinton was campaigning to be the first female U.S. president, gender had rarely come front-and-centre until a 2005 video surfaced in which Mr. Trump described "moving on" a married woman and kissing another woman without her consent. Republicans – including running-mate Mr. Pence – distanced themselves from Mr. Trump for a few days, and many more women came forward alleging he had sexually assaulted them.
Oct. 28, 2016: Comey comes back to Congress.
In late October, Mr. Comey burst into the campaign again to say investigators had found more evidence about Ms. Clinton from an unrelated case. The FBI director's letter was scant on details about what was found, and threw a Clinton campaign that had been coasting for weeks into disarray. Less than 48 hours before election day, Mr. Comey came back to say the agency had finished its review and still wouldn't press charges, but by then the damage had been done and the race looked a lot more close.