Biden urges nation to come together and projects confidence as his Pennsylvania lead widens
By Maeve Reston and Stephen Collinson
In the latest batch of results from the Keystone State, Biden expanded his lead over Trump, which is now up to 28,833, meaning the President's already thin hopes of catching up are fast dwindling. Trump cannot win a second term without Pennsylvania, and if Biden captures its 20 electoral votes he cannot be stopped.
Biden would not declare victory when he spoke to the nation late Friday night, but said he was confident in an impending victory.
"The numbers tell us a clear and convincing story. We are going to win this race," Biden said.
He added, "We are going to win this race with a clear majority of the nation behind us."
Biden put on a show of confidence about the state of the race and also sought to present a picture of a new administration that is ready to get to work. He said that from his first day in the Oval Office he would launch a plan to control the pandemic, and he vowed to quickly enact an economic plan to speed the recovery.
And noting political tensions stirred by the election, Biden said, "We have to remain calm, patient, let the process work out as we count all the votes."
Biden's comments harked back to a calmer time, before the uproar of the Trump years, as he said it was time to drain the anger and demonization of partisanship, that politics would be about justice and improving the lives of all Americans.
The former vice president is also stretching his leads in Nevada and Georgia, though each state remains too close to call. He leads Trump by more than 22,000 votes in Nevada and is ahead by more than 4,000 in Georgia. The count will be complicated in Pennsylvania by tens of thousands of provisional ballots and many others that require extra care for reasons that include damage, legibility, signature issues or other defects.
The President cannot reach 270 electoral votes without winning both Pennsylvania and Georgia, and at least one of the other outstanding states. Biden can get over the top by winning Pennsylvania on its own or by taking both Nevada and Arizona. The challenger currently leads the President by 253 to 213 electoral votes, CNN projects.
Trump is cutting the Democrat's lead in Arizona, which is down to fewer than 30,000 votes with 94% reported, but it is not clear whether his margins are sufficiently wide to overtake his rival with 235,000 votes still to be counted.
Biden has made plans to address the American people in prime time on Friday night for what he hoped would be a victory speech, but it was not immediately clear whether the event in Wilmington, Delaware, will take place if the election has not yet been called. Vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris of California is also expected to speak.
Trump has not appeared in public after his grievance- and lie-filled news conference at the White House on Thursday, and as a battle of wills began to emerge between the President and Biden's camp over the election endgame. Trump said in a tweet that Biden should not "wrongfully claim" the office of president and promised legal proceedings to try to hang on to his job. But so far the Trump campaign has offered conspiracy theories and accusations but little concrete evidence to back up its claims of corruption in the election.
Biden takes the lead in traditionally Republican Georgia
The former vice president's surprising strength in Georgia stemmed from huge turnout from Black voters in Fulton County and other suburbs around Atlanta, fatigue with Trump in Georgia's fast-growing suburbs -- which have become increasingly young and diverse in recent years -- and assiduous work over more than a decade to boost Democratic registration in the state.
"Right now, Georgia remains too close to call. Of approximately 5 million votes cast, we'll have a margin of a few thousand," Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a news conference Friday, adding, "with a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia."
There is no automatic recount in Georgia, but a candidate can request a recount after votes are certified if the results are within 0.5%.
Trump's campaign general counsel Matt Morgan said in a statement earlier Friday, "Georgia is headed for a recount, where we are confident we will find ballots improperly harvested, and where President Trump will ultimately prevail."
No Democratic presidential nominee has won the state since Bill Clinton in 1992. Clinton narrowly defeated former President George H.W. Bush in that state in part because he and Bush were in a three-way race that included Ross Perot, an independent candidate for the presidency.
Trump refuses to back down
As the drama unfolded across the country, the President's allies launched legal challenges and floated conspiracy theories while Trump tweeted "Stop the Count!"
On Thursday night, Trump effectively sent a signal that he has no intention of leaving power without a fight if he ends up losing the election. The speech from the White House briefing room -- in which Trump falsely claimed that votes that were cast before and during the election, but counted after Election Day, are illegal votes -- could end up being one of the most dangerous presidential statements in American history.
The President also made ludicrous claims that his leads on election night shrunk because Democratic officials keep finding ballots, when in fact the counts have narrowed because election officials in many states counted the vote-by-mail ballots, which favored Democrats, after the Election Day votes, which tended to favor Republicans.
Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney tweeted Friday that Trump's comments about a rigged election "damages the cause of freedom here and around the world," going further than the rest of the Senate GOP conference, where some top Republicans have continued to defend Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud.
As the President spoke Thursday night, the daily tally of new US coronavirus infections hit 114,876, the worst daily count ever, encapsulating how Trump's political obsessions have driven his neglect of a crisis that has killed more than 235,000 Americans.
Road to 270
It has long been known that Biden would benefit from a late surge of mail-in balloting that was preferred by Democrats amid the pandemic. The President spent months on the campaign trail, falsely blasting mail-in ballots as prone to fraud -- one reason why GOP voters have proven far less likely to use them.
Trump cannot find a route to 270 electoral votes without Georgia and Pennsylvania, so his chances of securing reelection will hinge on developments in those two states in the coming days.
In Arizona, several tranches of votes from Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, narrowed Biden's lead to just less than 40,000 votes, with Trump's team insisting the President will eventually prevail and keep his hopes of a path to 270 alive.
If Biden holds leads in Arizona and Nevada, he will get to 270 electoral votes and become the next President, regardless of what happens in Pennsylvania and Georgia.
CNN projects Biden will win at least three of Maine's four electoral votes, plus Wisconsin, Michigan, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Virginia, California, Oregon, Washington state, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Colorado, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Delaware, Washington, DC, Maryland, Massachusetts and one of Nebraska's five electoral votes. Nebraska and Maine award two electoral votes to their statewide winners and divide their other electoral votes by congressional districts.
CNN projects Trump will win Montana, Texas, Iowa, Idaho, Ohio, Mississippi, Wyoming, Missouri, Kansas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana, Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida and Tennessee and four of Nebraska's five electoral votes.