On the verge of victory

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White House in reach for Biden as he takes lead in Pennsylvania, Georgia; Trump says he won’t concede

Reuters, Washington

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden took the lead over President Donald Trump in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Georgia for the first time yesterday, putting him on the verge of winning the White House.

Three days after polls closed, Biden has a 253 to 213 lead in the state-by-state electoral college vote that determines the winner, according to Edison Research. Winning Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes would put the former vice president over the 270 he needs to secure the presidency.

Biden would also win the election if he prevails in two of the three other key states where he held narrow leads yesterday: Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. Like Pennsylvania, all three were still processing ballots yesterday.

In both Pennsylvania and Georgia, Biden overtook Trump on the strength of mail-in ballots that were cast in urban Democratic strongholds like Philadelphia and Atlanta.

As Biden inched closer to triumph, he is expected to address the nation this morning (BST), according to a person familiar with his plans. The remarks could be a victory speech; a Biden aide said he could be declared the winner within hours.

With his re-election chances fading, Trump escalated his baseless attacks on the results, appearing at the White House early Friday (BST) to falsely claim the election was being “stolen” from him. His campaign is pursuing a series of lawsuits across battleground states that legal experts described as unlikely to succeed in altering the election outcome.

Even as vote totals now show him trailing Biden in key battleground states, Trump has not prepared a concession speech and in conversations with allies in recent days, he has said he has no intention of conceding the election, people familiar with the matter told CNN and Fox.

Trump’s campaign made clear in a statement yesterday that it will contest the election.

The campaign’s general counsel, Matt Morgan, asserted in a statement that the elections in Georgia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania all suffered from improprieties and that Trump would eventually prevail in Arizona.

“This election is not over,” he added. “Biden is relying on these states for his phony claim on the White House, but once the election is final, President Trump will be re-elected.”

Election officials in those states have said they are unaware of any irregularities.

In Pennsylvania, Biden moved ahead of Trump by 13,662 votes yesterday. The state’s biggest city, Philadelphia, has about 40,000 ballots left to count, which could take several days to complete, Lisa Deeley, chair of the Philadelphia City Commissioners, said during a press conference yesterday.

In Georgia, Biden opened up a 1,553 vote lead. There are just 4,169 outstanding ballots to be counted across a handful of counties in Georgia, Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system implementation manager, said in a press conference yesterday.

Trump campaign yesterday said they will call for a recount in Georgia. The state allows request for a recount only after state certification, which will be done on November 20 at the latest, and only if results are within 0.5 percent margin.

Biden, 77, would be the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.

In Arizona, after counting of 93 percent of the votes, Biden’s lead had narrowed to about 430,942 votes.

Biden campaign said they had expected Trump to close the gap in Arizona’s largest county – but they still believe Biden has more support coming in from the 220,000 uncounted votes in the state.

In Nevada, with 92 percent of the votes counted, Biden’s lead has widens marginally. He was ahead by about 20,137 till filing of this report.

After 95 percent votes counted, Trump leads North Carolina by 76,737 votes.

Pennsylvania, one of three traditionally Democratic states along with Michigan and Wisconsin that handed Trump his 2016 victory, had long been seen crucial to the 2020 race, and both candidates lavished enormous sums of money and time on the state.

As the country held its breath for a result in the White House race, Georgia and Pennsylvania officials expressed optimism they would finish counting today, while Arizona and Nevada were still expected to take days to complete their vote totals.

TRUMP’S DIMINISHING LEADS

Trump, 74, has sought to portray as fraudulent the slow counting of mail-in ballots, which surged in popularity due to fears of exposure to the coronavirus through in-person voting.

States have historically taken time after election day to tally all votes.

The close election has underscored the nation’s deep political divides, and if he wins Biden will likely face a difficult task governing in a deeply polarized Washington.

Republicans could keep control of the US Senate, pending the outcome of four undecided Senate races including two in Georgia that are likely to go for runoffs. A Republican held Senate would likely block large parts of his legislative agenda, including expanding healthcare and fighting climate change.

CNN yesterday projected former astronaut Mark Kelly, a Democrat, to win the Senate race in Arizona, defeating incumbent GOP Sen Martha McSally. The late Sen John McCain once held this seat.

The winner of the presidential race will have to tackle a pandemic that has killed more than 234,000 people in the United States and left millions more out of work, even as the country still grapples with the aftermath of months of unrest over race relations and police brutality.

‘RIG AN ELECTION’

Trump fired off several tweets in the early morning hours yesterday, and repeated some of the complaints he aired earlier at the White House. “I easily WIN the Presidency of the United States with LEGAL VOTES CAST,” he said on Twitter, without offering any evidence that any illegal votes have been cast.

Twitter flagged the post as possibly misleading, something it has done to numerous tweets by Trump since election day.

In an extraordinary assault on the democratic process, Trump appeared in the White House briefing room Friday morning (BST) and baselessly alleged the election was being “stolen” from him.

Offering no evidence, Trump lambasted election workers and sharply criticized polling before the election that he said was designed to suppress the vote because it favoured Biden.

Interestingly, in that very speech he praised Republicans for doing well in Senate and House races.

Trump’s campaign, meanwhile, has filed lawsuits in several states, though judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly rejected challenges there. Biden campaign senior legal adviser Bob Bauer called them part of a “broader misinformation campaign”.

“They’re trying to rig an election, and we can’t let that happen,” said Trump, who spoke in the White House briefing room but took no questions. Several TV networks cut away during his remarks, with anchors saying they needed to correct his statements.

Biden, who earlier in the day urged patience as votes were counted, responded on Twitter: “No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever.”

Trump supporters, some carrying guns, ramped up their demonstrations against the process Friday morning (BST). In Arizona, Trump and Biden supporters briefly scuffled outside the Maricopa County Elections Department in Phoenix.

In Philadelphia, police said they arrested one man and seized a weapon as part of an investigation into a purported plot to attack the city’s Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes were being counted.