Democrat Joe Biden strengthened his hold on the race for the White House on Thursday, steadily chipping away at Donald Trump’s early lead in a pair of crucial swing states as the president’s campaign peppered the courts with legal complaints.
In an evening statement at the White House, the president said the election is being stolen from him, despite no evidence of widespread illegal voting.
Trump’s lead in Georgia had dwindled to just 3,600 votes on Thursday evening, while his lead in Pennsylvania was down to 64,000, according to the Associated Press. Each state has been counting a surge of mail-in ballots, which skew Democratic and left the president confined in the White House watching his lead steadily drip away throughout the day. Biden expanded his lead in Nevada.
Biden expressed confidence in brief remarks on Thursday. “We have no doubt, when the count is finished, Senator Harris and I will be declared the winners,” he said at an appearance in the late afternoon, referring to running mate Kamala Harris.
Trump earlier expressed outrage on Twitter and his campaign filed long-shot legal challenges.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” the president said at the White House.
Public polls that showed leads for Biden in states such as Florida, Wisconsin and Ohio, Trump said, had created “the illusion of momentum for Mr. Biden and diminished the Republican Party’s ability to raise funds.”
His aides had spent the day shuttling in and out of the Trump campaign headquarters in Northern Virginia as his team filed a flurry complaints over vote monitoring in Pennsylvania and ineligible voting in Nevada. A case in Georgia related to 53 ballots was tossed out. Trump at one point sent out a written statement, entirely in capital letters.
Close allies fanned out to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada to hold news conferences and allege a rigged system, with no evidence. Legal challenges were largely aimed at slowing or pausing counting of the votes, and were generally unsuccessful.
Biden has several paths to the presidency, and some scenarios hinge on Arizona. The Associated Press and Fox News called the state for Biden, enraging Trump’s camp, which believes it can still win. Biden leads by about 68,000 votes there, with more data due later Thursday.
If Biden holds Arizona, any of Nevada, Pennsylvania or Georgia would put him over the threshold for victory — and Pennsylvania would do so regardless of Arizona.
The race is also tightening in Georgia, where nearly 5 million votes were cast but just 9,000 separated the two candidates. Both Senate races in the state are also poised to go to a run-off, after Senator David Perdue fell below the 50% threshold Thursday afternoon.
In Nevada, Biden’s lead widened to 11,400, from 7,600 at the start of the day. The state has just six electoral college votes, but would clinch the presidency for Biden if he also held Arizona next door. About 190,000 ballots have to be counted, mostly in the county that includes Las Vegas, according to Nevada Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.
Trump hadn’t appeared publicly since the early morning hours of Wednesday, late into election night, when he said he thought he’d won the election. Later Wednesday, he declared victory in Pennsylvania and Michigan; he’s been declared the loser of Michigan and the count is ongoing in Pennsylvania.
Since election night, Trump has been in the White House and has met or spoken with a coterie of close advisers including Hope Hicks; Dan Scavino; his children Don Jr., Eric and Ivanka; as well as Meadows and Vice President Mike Pence, according to people familiar with the matter. He has also spoken with the Republican governors of two states in which the election outcome remains unclear, Arizona and Georgia, the people said.
As frustration and disappointment simmered in Trump’s circles, it fell to his son to issue a call for other Republicans to speak up.
“The total lack of action from virtually all of the ‘2024 GOP hopefuls” is pretty amazing,” Donald Trump Jr. tweeted. “They have a perfect platform to show that they’re willing & able to fight but they will cower to the media mob instead.” Senator Tom Cotton and former UN ambassador Nikki Haley swiftly fired off tweets supportive of Trump.
Donald Trump Jr. also tweeted that his father’s best option was “to go to total war over this election to expose all of the fraud.” Twitter quickly flagged that tweet as misleading, as it has with several of the president’s tweets since polls closed.
Biden’s advisers are confident that he will win and were awaiting results. Winning Pennsylvania would be particularly meaningful for Biden, who lived in the state until age 10 and was sometimes called the state’s third senator because the Philadelphia media market reaches into Delaware, which he represented in the Senate.
Biden and Harris have been meeting with advisers to pore over the election results and dig into policy. On Thursday, they were briefed on the latest developments in the coronavirus pandemic and on the economy. He called for patience in his brief speech, and did not take questions.
“Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well,” he told the country in a brief speech. “But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years with a system of governance that’s been the envy of the world.”
Trump’s legal fight is yielding mixed results. Itwon a court order requiring Pennsylvania to segregate mail-in ballots from voters who were asked to provide missing proof of identification during an extended period for allowing such fixes, as well as an order to allow observers to get closer to watch the counting of mail-in ballots in Philadelphia. Lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan wereboth dismissed.
Trump’s campaign also said it planned to sue in Nevada, alleging some people voted despite no longer meeting residency requirements. It also alleged fraud, and held a combative press conference in Las Vegas where two Trump allies, Richard Grenell and Matt Schlapp, clashed with media, declined to identify themselves and didn’t take questions after claiming without evidence the election was fraudulent.
Full unofficial results are expected in Pennsylvania and Georgia late Thursday or early Friday. It’s not clear how long Arizona will take, while Nevada said the bulk of its ballots will be processed by Sunday but that the final count won’t come before Nov. 12.
— With assistance by Saleha Mohsin, Laura Davison, and Mark Niquette
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