Wilmington: Joe Biden stood on the cusp of the presidency Friday, seizing leads over President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania and Georgia and building on his lead in Nevada as he drew ever closer to securing the 270 electoral votes needed to lay claim to the White House.
“We’re going to win this race with a clear majority of the nation behind us,” Biden said late Friday night as he recounted his vote totals in the major battleground states and projected confidence that victory was inevitable. “We’ve rebuilt the ‘blue wall’ in the middle of the country that crumbled just four years ago. Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, the heartland of this nation.”
Biden, who was winning the popular vote by more than 4 million votes on Friday night and has already won 253 electoral votes, had pulled ahead of Trump in Pennsylvania by more than 28,800 votes. If his lead holds - and it is expected to - the state’s 20 electoral votes would vault him past the threshold to win the election.
In his remarks at an event center in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden claimed a “mandate for action” to begin work on issues that included the coronavirus, the economy, climate change and systemic racism.
But he also urged patience and calm as the results came in.
“We have to remain calm, patient, let the process work out as we count all the votes,” he said.
In Philadelphia, some Biden supporters started dancing in the street outside the convention centre, in front of a banner declaring “The People Have Spoken.”
In Georgia, Biden’s lead was initially so narrow that state officials said a recount was inevitable. But by Friday evening it had grown to about 4,000 votes.
In Arizona, Biden maintained his lead as election officials continued to plough through tens of thousands of ballots from Phoenix and its suburbs. His advantage shrank slightly, but not by as much as Republicans had hoped.
In Nevada, Biden nearly doubled his lead Friday to around 22,600 votes.
Biden’s appeal to let the process play out contrasted with that of Trump, who took the lectern in the White House briefing room Thursday to falsely claim that the election was riddled with fraud, as part of an elaborate coast-to-coast conspiracy by Democrats, the news media and Silicon Valley to deny him a second term.
As the number of outstanding ballots slowly dwindled, Trump was left increasingly with only legal challenges to forestall defeat, while Biden was betting on the steady accumulation of mail-in ballots to keep him on top in Pennsylvania.
Biden had already begun to project the image of a man preparing to assume the mantle of the presidency, meeting with his economic and health advisers to be briefed on the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden kept a low profile for much of Friday. But outside the Westin hotel near his home in Wilmington, signs of celebration were afoot - a celebration that would end up being delayed, again, as Biden waited on an official call of the race.
Thomas Kunish, 40, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 160km away, said he had driven in to show support with his 5-year-old son, spending the night in the car. The last time he voted, he said, was for George W. Bush in 2000.
“It was interesting, the past four years,” Kunish, who works in the defence industry, said of Trump’s presidency. “There was hope when he got elected, things maybe would change?” Instead, he said, the Trump administration was marked by “turmoil.” He and his son were hoping to see fireworks Friday night - which did not come to pass.
Biden’s team had hoped the former vice president would have delivered a victory speech in prime time, but instead, Biden spoke briefly before a small group of reporters late Friday night.
“I hope to be talking to you tomorrow,” Biden said.
The vote count slowed to a crawl Friday afternoon across the states most likely to decide the presidency, leaving Joe Biden tantalisingly close to the 270 electoral votes he needs to become president-elect but without a clear sense of when he might reach that number.
The Keystone State remains Biden’s clearest path to victory; a win there would be enough to call the entire race in his favour. He slowly built a lead of more than 28,800 votes Friday, with about 100,000 absentee ballots still to count. He has won more than three-quarters of the absentee votes counted so far.
A quarter of the remaining ballots are in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, where no ballots were tabulated Thursday. The county said it would try to count its remaining ballots Friday, and a new batch of tabulated ballots reportedly coming Friday evening could conceivably bring the networks to call the state - and therefore the election - in Biden’s favour.
The rest of the ballots are spread across Pennsylvania’s other counties, and it is unclear whether or why the count in those places has slowed. More ballots may come later Friday, slowly padding Biden’s edge. Or not.
There’s no obvious path to victory for Donald Trump in the state, so it is not clear why the networks have not called the state in Biden’s favour. One possibility is that the networks are waiting, as they often do, for Biden to build a lead outside the margin of a recount - in Pennsylvania, that is half a percentage point. That level of caution may be particularly appropriate in the case of mail-in ballots, which could conceivably be rejected or segregated.
The networks will also consider the state’s 100,000 or so provisional ballots, cast by people who could not be verified as eligible when they showed up to vote, before making a projection. Typically, these ballots lean overwhelmingly Democratic, but that is at least somewhat complicated by the unusually heavy Republican vote on Election Day this year.
There’s no telling how quickly Biden will amass a large enough lead for news organizations to call him the winner in Pennsylvania. But he has another path to a victory if Pennsylvania’s count continues to drag out: If he wins both Nevada and Arizona, he does not need Pennsylvania to reach 270 electoral votes.
Biden already has a nearly 2-point lead over Trump in Nevada, and the outstanding vote - most of it in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas - appears likely to break toward Biden. The Nevada secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske, said that many of the remaining votes are mail-in ballots, which have so far broken to Biden by a wide margin. The rest are a mix of provisional ballots and ballots from same-day registrants, which could be more competitive but seem unlikely to help Trump eat into Biden’s lead.
In Arizona, Biden leads by roughly 29,860 votes, with about 140,000 votes to count. But it is tight: Trump will need to win what’s left by approximately 20% to overtake Biden, and he has led by nearly as much in the late count.
Most of the remaining votes are in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, and the state expected to report many new ballots there at 9 p.m. Eastern. Biden fared better in Friday morning’s Maricopa ballots than he did Thursday, perhaps reflecting a gradual shift toward counting ballots that were dropped off on Election Day, which have tended to be more Democratic. If Biden continues to improve in the count Friday night, Trump’s path to win the state will start to narrow - possibly enough to allow a projection.
Senator David Perdue, Republican, Georgia, was fighting for his political life Friday in a contest that could determine which party controls the Senate, as his reelection bid headed to a January runoff against Jon Ossoff, his Democratic challenger.
Perdue had a razor-thin lead over Ossoff in a contest that demonstrated Democrats’ emerging strength in what was once a Republican stronghold in the Deep South. Neither candidate claimed a majority of votes amid a protracted count, according to The Associated Press.
The inconclusive result set up a dramatic rematch between Perdue and Ossoff on January 5, and thrust Georgia into the centre of the nation’s political fray as Joe Biden appeared on track to win the White House. The state had already been slated to decide the fate of its other Senate seat in a special-election runoff between the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, the same day. That makes it nearly certain that the twin Georgia races will determine which party controls the chamber just two weeks before the next presidential inauguration.
“Change has come to Georgia,” Ossoff said at a rally Friday, “and Georgia is a part of the change coming to America.”
If Biden wins the White House, and Democrats take both of Georgia’s seats, they would draw the Senate to a 50-50 tie, effectively taking control of the chamber, given the vice president’s power to cast tiebreaking votes. But that is a tall order in a state with deep conservative roots, and Republicans felt reasonably confident they could hang onto at least one of the seats needed to deny Democrats the majority.
Two other Senate races, in North Carolina and in Alaska, had not yet been called. But Republicans were leading in both and expected to win, putting them at 50 seats to the Democrats’ 48.
Joe Biden took the lead over President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania on Friday morning as Democrats grew increasingly confident that he would win the state and with it the presidency: The state’s 20 electoral votes would put Biden, who has 253 electoral votes, past the 270-vote threshold for victory.
By Friday evening, after more votes were counted from Philadelphia and other counties that have supported Biden, he led Trump by more than 27,100 votes.
Biden had steadily erased Trump’s early lead in the state - at one point, the president led by half a million votes - as ballots, mostly absentee and mail-in votes, were counted over the past few days. Most of the remaining uncounted votes in the state are in Democratic-leaning areas.
At a news conference Friday afternoon, Philadelphia elections officials said that they had about 40,000 ballots left to count in the city.
The remaining ballots “generally fall into one of three categories: those that require a review, provisionals and US military overseas ballots,” said Lisa Deeley, one of the city commissioners in Philadelphia in charge of elections. “I would estimate there’s approximately 40,000 remaining to be counted.”
“We can also tell you that it may take several days to complete the reporting of that,” Deeley added.
On Thursday, Kathy Boockvar, the Pennsylvania secretary of state, told CNN that the “overwhelming majority” of the state’s remaining votes would be counted by Friday.
Pennsylvania Democratic officials have said their analysis of the uncounted votes gave them confidence that Biden would win the state by a substantial margin.
“We believe when the votes are counted, it’s pretty clear that Joe Biden’s going to be president of the United States, because he’s going to win Pennsylvania,” said state Sen. Sharif Street, the vice chair of the state Democratic Party, on Thursday.
Trump has baselessly insisted that post-Election Day tallies showing Biden leading in battleground states, including Pennsylvania, were the result of fraud, and has vowed to challenge them in court. His campaign showed no sign of an imminent concession Friday morning.
“The false projection of Joe Biden as the winner is based on results in four states that are far from final,” a lawyer for the Trump campaign said in a statement.
Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia dismissed those accusations Friday.
“While some including the president continue to spew baseless claims of fraud, claims for which his team has not produced one iota of evidence, what we have seen here in Philadelphia is democracy, pure and simple,” Kenney said.
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said that if Biden won the election and Trump refused to concede, “The United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”
Joe Biden widened his lead over President Donald Trump in Nevada on Friday from about 11,000 votes to about 22,500, and moved closer to victory there, as his advantage over Trump grew to 1.8 percentage points.
Nevada has six electoral votes and its entire Election Day vote has been counted; the late mail and provisional ballots that remain lean Democratic. About 9% of the state’s votes have yet to be tabulated.
Final results might not be announced until Saturday or Sunday, elections officials have said.
The Trump campaign has already identified Nevada, which allows any losing candidate to request a recount, as one of the battleground states where it hopes to use the courts and procedural manoeuvres to stave off defeat in the Electoral College. Less than 24 hours before Election Day, a Nevada judge rejected a lawsuit filed by Republicans who had tried to stop early vote counting in Clark County.
Since Hillary Clinton beat Trump in Nevada by 2.4 percentage points in 2016, the state has turned a deeper shade of blue, with Democrats controlling the governor’s office and Legislature, both Senate seats and all but one House seat. It was not widely expected to be a battleground state this year.
But while recent polls consistently showed Biden ahead of Trump in Nevada, Democrats worried that the pandemic would make it difficult to create a robust election turnout operation. The state has reported more than 104,000 coronavirus cases.
As former Vice President Joe Biden took a narrow lead over President Donald Trump in Georgia, Georgia’s secretary of state said Friday that the presidential race there was so close that a recount was inevitable.
As of Friday evening, Biden led Trump in Georgia by more than 4,000 votes.
“With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia,” the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said Friday morning at the state Capitol.
He added: “The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country. The stakes are high and emotions are high on all sides. We will not let those debates distract us from our work. We will get it right, and we will defend the integrity of our elections.”
Gabriel Sterling, an official with the secretary of state’s office, said that a pool of about 4,200 ballots - most of them absentee ballots - remained to be tallied in four counties: Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee and Floyd. The largest tranche to be counted was in Gwinnett County, which contains Atlanta suburban communities and has gone from leaning Republican to leaning Democratic in recent years.
The state must also deal with ballots from military and overseas voters, which will be counted if they arrive in the mail before the end of business Friday and were postmarked by Tuesday.
Sterling said that the unofficial tally of the votes could be completed by the end of the weekend.
Flipping Georgia, a state last won by a Democrat in 1992, and where Trump won by more than 200,000 votes four years ago, would represent a significant political shift this year, but the state has shown signs of trending blue. When Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, he did so by 5 percentage points, a far slimmer margin than Republicans had enjoyed in previous presidential elections.
Biden’s late surge in this year’s count, thanks to his dominance in Atlanta, Savannah and the increasingly Democratic-friendly suburbs around both, transformed the competition in a traditionally Republican-leaning state into one of the closest contests in the nation.
As the count narrowed and it appeared that the two candidates would be separated by the slimmest of margins, Democrats urged voters in the state to fix ballots that had been rejected because of invalid or missing signatures before the deadline Friday evening.
Those who voted absentee - a group that this year has been heavily Democratic - can check online to see whether election officials have accepted or rejected their ballots. Absentee ballots are often rejected when the voter forgets to sign or uses a signature that does not match the one on file with the state, in some cases because the filed signature is many years old. Election officials are supposed to contact voters in such cases but are not always able to do so.
Voters have until 5 p.m. Friday to submit an affidavit form to “cure” such ballots. With Georgia hanging in the balance as the last votes are counted, national Democrats - including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York - are amplifying the message in hopes of salvaging every vote possible.