Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, continued his slow but steady march on the White House Thursday, as President Donald Trump launched frantic efforts to drag out the outcome through recount demands in Wisconsin and lawsuits in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia even though his path to re-election was still not closed till Thursday afternoon (late night in India).
What brought Biden within striking distance was the flips projected in 3 states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona — for the challenger by the Associated Press, whose tracker put the former vice-president’s tally of electoral college votes at 264, just six short of the threshold of 270 seats. He was leading a tight race in Nevada, which has six electoral college votes, and which alone could get him over the line with three larger states still in play.
Not all news organisations had projected a winner for Arizona at the time of writing this report, and kept Biden’s tally at 253. Speaking in his home state of Delaware with vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris by his side, Biden did not claim victory (as Trump had done earlier) but said he was confident he would win when the counting was complete. He also invoked former President Barack Obama to offer a unifying message at the end of a deeply divisive polling environment: “There will be no blue states and red states when we win — just the United States of America.”
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Trump was at 214, and was ahead in Pennsylvania (20), Georgia (16) and North Carolina (15), but his lead in all three was shrinking at the time of going to print as more mail-in ballots, favoured disproportionately by Democrat voters, were a large chunk of the votes still to be counted. But President Trump sought to reject these outcomes — both projections and final. “If you count the legal votes, I easily win the election! If you count the illegal and late votes, they can steal the election from us!” the Trump campaign issued a statement by the President on Thursday.
The President’s campaign lawyers have already filed a growing folio of lawsuits. They started with an announcement that they will be calling for a recount of votes in Wisconsin, the first of the crucial battleground states that was called for Biden, alleging “reports of irregularities”.
The campaign followed up shortly with an announcement of lawsuits in Michigan and Pennsylvania to halt counting till the campaign was given “meaningful access” to counting locations. And then came the lawsuit in Georgia, normally a solid Republican state, shortly after it announced new counting numbers showing a narrowing race, with Biden speedily cutting the President’s lead from about 200,000 on Wednesday to just 14,000 at the time of going to print.
This lawsuit claimed a Republican observer had seen 53 ballots added to counting stacks after polling closed. The Trump campaign also complained about attempts by Democrats to “steal” the elections from the president, repeating a line Trump first put out in the early hours of Wednesday when he had also sought to prematurely declare victory, which was part of a planned strategy to claim victory while he was “ahead”. He had denied it then.
Trump supporters gathered at counting locations in Phoenix and Detroit calling for an end to counting as lawyers sought more transparency in the counting process. Dozens of them chanted “Stop the count!” at a ballot tallying centre in Detroit, as anti-Trump supporters shouted slogans calling for the votes t be counted.
But, even as these attempts continued, Biden appeared close to the magic number and could be home with either Pennsylvania or Georgia, on their own or with Arizona and Nevada, where he has been leading. He was picking up absentee ballots at a much higher percentage than Trump across states.
While Biden’s road to the presidency still offers him several combinations of states even if the Arizona projection is reversed,for Trump, Pennsylvania is the most crucial key to unlocking a second term — the President does not have a path to 270 electoral college votes and the White House without that crucial battleground state.
Biden made it clear when he spoke in Wilmington that “every vote must be counted”. “No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now. Not ever,” he said. This was in marked contrast to Trump’s premature claim of victory when he was ahead overall on the electoral map, but with millions of outstanding votes that had not been counted. On Thursday, in a tweet, he also “hereby claimed” the states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and North Carolina. Not everyone was on the same page; the votes continue to be counted.
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