Joe Biden stood on the brink of claiming the presidency from Donald Trump on Thursday, with a handful of states expecting to complete their vote counts despite Republicans opening legal fights to stop counting in at least two states.
Biden held 264 Electoral College votes out of the 270 needed to win the White House, according to the Associated Press. Trump has 214.
Biden needs only to win an additional outstanding state, such as Nevada where he is leading, or Georgia, where his campaign believes absentee votes will push him over the top.
The former vice president said he expects to prevail. “I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” he told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware.
His remarks came Wednesday afternoon after he scored a victory over Trump in Wisconsin, closing off one of the president’s best routes to re-election.
Trump raged on Twitter about the increasing votes for Biden, and stoked rage among his most ardent supporters with the unfounded allegation that fraud kept him from winning. His campaign said it is suing in Pennsylvania and Michigan to halt vote counts that have been trending toward Biden.
Trump falsely declared victory in Pennsylvania, one of the five states that has yet to be called by the Associated Press. The president was ahead in the state by 383,000 votes but Pennsylvania officials said more than a million ballots still have to be counted.
To win the Electoral College vote, he would have to win all the battleground states that have not yet been called.
Biden’s Wisconsin and Michigan victories reverse two of Trump’s upsets in 2016, when he defeated Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s campaign said it would demand a recount in Wisconsin, where the candidates were less than 1 percentage point apart.
The president tweeted throughout the day, casting doubt on the count of mail-in ballots, which were heavily Democratic, after the Election Day in-person votes were counted, which leaned Republican.
“How come every time they count Mail-In ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction,” the president said on Twitter. Another tweet mused about his leads “magically” disappearing in states run by Democratic governors.
Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, insisted the president was headed for re-election and that the campaign was readying its lawyers to challenge results in some states.
The unresolved outcome — due to an unusually large number of mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus — risks stoking tensions further in the U.S., beset by an economic downturn and the raging virus.
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement early Wednesday that Trump’s remarks were “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect” and “a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.”
In Nevada, where tallying was halted until Thursday, Biden was clinging to a lead of almost 8,000 votes. In the nationwide popular vote, he leads by roughly 3 million.
There were few surprises among states where the Associated Press announced winners, with Republican and Democratic states generally falling in line, despite expectations for several upsets.
Trump won Florida, a crucial prize in the race for the White House that closed off Biden’s hopes for an early knockout. The president also won Texas, which Democrats had hoped might flip and entirely reshape the electoral map.
Trump won Ohio and Biden won Minnesota, states that each candidate had sought to take from the other but wound up politically unchanged from 2016.