WASHINGTON: In a setback for Republican US President Donald Trump, Democratic rival Joe Biden secured the key swing states of Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday, and was narrowly leading in Arizona and Nevada.
It is important to mention here that Wisconsin and Michigan were won by Trump in the previous presidential election when he outsmarted Hillary Clinton in his bid to become president of the United States.
Wisconsin officials finished their tally at around midday after an all-night effort, showing Biden with a lead of just over 20,000 votes, or 0.6%, according to Edison Research. The Trump campaign immediately said it would seek a recount, which is permitted under state law when the margin is below 1%.
In Michigan, Biden's lead was not as narrow, with a difference of more than 67,000 votes.
A Biden victory in Wisconsin and Michigan has significantly narrowed Trump’s path to a second four-year term, though the outcome remains in doubt with other closely contested states including Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia and North Carolina still counting votes.
Trump led in the two Southern states, Georgia and North Carolina, as well as in Pennsylvania, where more than 1 million mail-in ballots were yet to be processed. Having lost Wisconsin and Michigan, he would have to win all three as well as either Arizona or Nevada, where Biden was leading in the latest vote counts.
At the moment, Biden leads Trump 264 to 213 in Electoral College votes, which are largely based on a state’s population.
We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election — Donald Trump
In dueling conference calls with reporters earlier on Wednesday, officials from each campaign insisted their candidate would prevail.
“If we count all legal ballots, we win,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said, potentially setting the stage for post-election litigation over the counting of mail-in ballots.
Biden campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon told reporters the former vice president was on track to win the election, while senior legal adviser Bob Bauer said there were no grounds for Trump to invalidate lawfully cast ballots.
“We’re going to defend this vote, the vote by which Joe Biden has been elected to the presidency,” said Bauer, adding that the campaign’s legal team was prepared for any challenge.
Biden was expected to deliver an address later on Wednesday.
US President Donald Trump had earlier called an election victory when millions of votes were yet to be counted and alleged electoral fraud. Meanwhile, Democratic rival Joe Biden made it clear that he has a team of lawyers at the ready in case any illegal disruption of the vote counting process is initiated by his rival.
"We won't rest until everyone's vote is counted," he wrote on Twitter.
Earlier, Biden's campaign said the former US vice president was on track to win the election, with expected victories in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Campaign manager Jennifer O'Malley Dillon said she expected Biden will have more than 270 electoral votes later on Wednesday. She told reporters she believed Biden has already won Wisconsin and was expected to win Nevada
Both candidates still have possible paths to reach the needed 270 Electoral College votes to win the White House, as states keep counting mail-in ballots — votes sent by US citizens through snail mail — which were historically high as voters sought to protect themselves from coming in contact with others by staying at home amid the raging coronavirus epidemic in the US.
• Biden leads Trump with 264 electoral college votes, Trump notches 213
• Trump declares victory with millions of votes left to be counted
• This is a major fraud, we all want voting to stop, says Trump
• Biden takes Wisconsin, Michigan; Trump demands recount
• All eyes are on Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and Alaska which make up for 71 of the remaining votes
• Trump leads Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Alaska
• Biden winning in Nevada and Arizona
Read more: Live coverage of US Election 2020
Shortly after Biden said he was confident of winning the contest once the votes are counted, Trump appeared at the White House in the early hours to declare victory and said his lawyers would be taking his case to the US Supreme Court, without specifying what they would claim.
"We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election," Trump said, in an extraordinary attack on the electoral process by a sitting president.
"This is a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we'll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop."
He provided no evidence to back up his claim of fraud.
Voting concluded as scheduled on Tuesday night, but many states routinely take days to finish counting ballots.
Biden's hopes of a decisive early victory were dashed on Tuesday evening when Trump won the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Texas. But the former vice president, 77, said he was confident he could win by taking the three key Rust Belt states.
"We feel good about where we are," Biden said in his home state of Delaware, shouting over a din of supporters in cars honking their horns in approval. "We believe we're on track to win this election."
During the final days of the campaign, Trump had suggested he would claim victory if ahead on election night and seek to halt the count of additional ballots.
"The president's statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect," Biden's campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon said in a statement.
Global stocks gyrated in early trade as results streamed in, with a final call now seen unlikely for days and the outcome raising the potential for gridlock that complicates the chance of a quick U.S. government spending boost to counter the effects of the pandemic.
"We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!" Trump, 74, tweeted before his White House appearance. Twitter swiftly tagged the tweet as possibly misleading.]
"It's not my place or Donald Trump's place to declare the winner of this election. It's the voters' place," Biden said on Twitter in response to the president.
It was not clear what Trump meant by saying he would ask the Supreme Court to halt "voting." However, legal experts have said the election outcome could get bogged down in state-by-state litigation over a host of issues, including whether states can include late-arriving ballots that were mailed by Election Day.
Even before Tuesday, the 2020 campaign saw a historic number of lawsuits across dozens of states, as the coronavirus pandemic forced election officials to prepare for an election like no other. Both campaigns have marshaled teams of lawyers in preparation for any disputes.
Ahead of the election, Trump had said he wanted his latest U.S. Supreme Court appointee, Amy Coney Barrett, confirmed by the Senate in case the court had to hear any electoral dispute. Democrats had criticized the president for appearing to suggest he expected Barrett to rule in his favor.
Trump has repeatedly said without evidence that widespread mail-in voting will lead to fraud, although U.S. election experts say fraud is vanishingly rare.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf said the state still had to count more than a million mail-in ballots and called Trump's remarks a partisan attack. According to Edison Research, more than 2.4 million early ballots were cast in the state, with 1.6 million by registered Democrats and about 555,000 by Republicans.
The next president will lead a nation battered by a pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 people and left millions more jobless, as well as racial tensions and political polarization that has only worsened during a vitriolic campaign.
The election will also decide which party controls the U.S. Congress for the next two years, and the Democratic drive to win control of the Senate appeared to fall short. Democrats picked up only one Republican-held seat while six other races remained undecided - Alaska, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina and two in Georgia.
Trump's strong performance in Florida, a must-win state for his re-election, was powered by his improved numbers with Latinos. His share of the vote in counties with large Latino populations was larger than it was in the 2016 election.
For months there had been complaints from Democratic Latino activists that Biden was ignoring Hispanic voters and lavishing attention instead on Black voters in big Midwestern cities. Opinion polls in key states showed Biden underperforming with Latinos in the weeks leading up to the election.
In the Miami area, Latinos are predominantly Cuban Americans, where generations of families have fled communist rule in Cuba. Trump's messaging about Biden being a socialist seemed to work with them and with Venezuelans there despite Biden's denials.
Edison's national exit poll showed that while Biden led Trump among nonwhite voters, Trump received a slightly higher proportion of the nonwhite votes than he did in 2016. The poll showed that about 11% of African Americans, 31% of Hispanics and 30% of Asian Americans voted for Trump, up 3 percentage points from 2016 in all three groups.
There were no signs of disruptions or violence at polling sites on Tuesday, as some officials had feared.
Biden put Trump's handling of the pandemic at the center of his campaign and had held a consistent lead in national opinion polls over the Republican president.
But a third of US voters listed the economy as the issue that mattered most to them when deciding their choice for president, while two out of 10 cited COVID-19, according to an Edison Research exit poll on Tuesday.
Trump is seeking another term in office after a chaotic four years marked by the coronavirus crisis, an economy battered by pandemic shutdowns, an impeachment drama, inquiries into Russian election interference, racial tensions and contentious immigration policies.
Biden is looking to win the presidency on his third attempt after a five-decade political career including eight years as vice president under Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama.
He has promised a renewed effort to fight the public health crisis, fix the economy and bridge America's political divide.
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