Trump calls for counting of legally-cast ballots to stop; Biden takes slim lead overnight in two key battleground states. Both candidates retain paths to victory.
By Miriam Raftery
November 4, 2020 (San Diego) – With millions of votes remaining to be counted in key battleground states, both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden retain potential paths to victory. Though some predicted a blue wave, the end result is a nail-biter in which neither candidate appears to have an overwhelming mandate from voters.
As of this morning, Biden has 227 electoral votes and Trump 213, as both edge closer to the 270 needed for victory.
Last night, Trump racked up early wins in key swing states including Texas, Florida and Ohio as well as solidly red states in the south and some midwestern states. Biden won expected liberal strongholds in New York and California, but also appeared to have flipped normally red Arizona and had a slim lead in some other battleground states.
Trump prematurely declared victory around 2:30 a.m. despite no media outlet calling enough states for him to win and no state election officials certifying results or completing the counting of votes legitimately cast on or before Election Day.
By midmorning today, Biden had picked up a slim lead in battleground states Michigan and Wisconsin. The race has also tightened in North Carolina and Georgia—all still considered too close to call. Pennsylvania, which did not begin counting votes until Election Day, is also still in play.
If Biden wins the two rust belt states formerly won by Trump in 2016 (Michigan and Wisconsin) and holds on in Arizona, he would have enough electoral votes to win the presidency. If Biden wins Georgia, he would not need any of the other states. Trump, by contrast, must win at least four of these five battleground states to remain in the White House.
During his speech in the wee hours of the morning, Trump claimed continuing to count votes after election day is a “major fraud on our nation…So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all counting to stop.” Yet he contradicted himself, arguing that voting should continue in Arizona, where he is behind Biden in votes counted thus far. Trump even tweeted, “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election,” prompting Twitter to label the tweet as misleading.
Counting votes long after day is customary, with each state setting its own rules for how and when to count ballots. The only federal requirement is for certification by December 8, before the Electoral College meets December 14. In a pandemic year, more ballots than ever were mailed in.
Joanna Lydgate, national director of the Voter Protect Program, a bipartisan group that supports state and local election officials, stated, “All votes need to be counted and no candidates get to try and steal the election by calling the winner before that happens.”
Trump’s call to end counting of votes legally cast drew swift criticism even from prominent Republicans.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a Trump ally who helped the President prep for the debate against Biden, called Trump’s statement “a bad political decision.”
Former GOP Senator Rick Santorum said “using the word `fraud’ when people were counting votes was wrong.”
Biden, in an appearance in Delaware, stated, “It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who won this election. It’s put to the American people. But I’m optimistic about the outcome.” He added that all votes should be counted.
Whoever wins will likely have to deal with a divided Congress. Democrats are projected to retain control of the House, though by a slimmer margin. NBC news projects Democrats will win 227 house seats and Republican 208.
In the Senate, Republicans appear likely to retain control, though possibly by less than the current three-vote margin. Currently of the 100 seats, multiple media outlets project Republicans will control 47 and Democrats 46, with a handful of races remaining to be called. Each party flipped just one seat thus far.
There is a potential for two races in Georgia to head to a run-off in January, would could edge Democrats closer to a near-even split. In the case of a tie vote, the Vice President would cast the tie-breaking vote on any legislation or Senate confirmation of Presidential appointees, including Supreme Court nominees and cabinet officials.
The coronavirus pandemic played a key role in the campaign, with Trump holding large in-person rallies without social distancing or mask requirements, while Biden relied largely on car rallies and virtual appearances. In-person mass rallies, though found to have spread some 30,000 cases of coronavirus according to Stanford University researchers, may have been a strategy that paid off for the President if he wins.
Trump also banked on the economy to pull votes, buoyed by improving numbers on Wall Street, as well as stoking fears of civil unrest and economic shutdowns of businesses due to the coronavirus if Biden won (though Biden has said he would rely on scientists and aimed to avoid lockdowns.)
Biden supporters cited the more than 225,000 American deaths from COVID-19, Trump’s efforts to eliminate the Affordable Care Act despite the pandemic, the President’s failure to address climate change, and his stoking of racial tensions as key reasons why they believed voters would seek change.