WASHINGTON – The presidential race remained too close to call Wednesday morning as both Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and President Donald Trump were left with viable paths to victory after key races were called overnight and battleground states counted thousands of outstanding votes.
Trump’s overnight victory in Florida closed off Biden’s pathway to an early victory, but Biden managed to flip Arizona, which Trump had won by 100,000 votes four years ago.
As of Wednesday morning, Biden had 238 electoral votes secured to Trump’s 213, meaning a handful of victories in states still calculating results could tip the balance of the race and put either candidate over the majority threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to win the race.
Among the states still undecided were Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, traditionally Democratic-leaning states Trump narrowly won in 2016. Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada also remained too close to call.
Trump overperforms in Florida, blocking Biden’s chance at early victory
Any hopes of an early victory for Biden were dashed by the president’s performance in the crucial state of Florida, where high turnout in the typically Democratic stronghold of Miami-Dade County helped deliver the state’s prized 29 electoral votes for the Republican incumbent.
Trump’s path to victory largely hinged on whether he could turn out the must-win state that is typically decided by razor thin margins – and the president overperformed, nearly tripling his 2016 margin of victory in the Sunshine State. Trump did not win Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, but lost it by a smaller margin than he did in 2016.
The Biden campaign mounted an aggressive campaign to seize Florida in an ambitious bid to expand their electoral map but were eclipsed by support for Trump in more rural communities of the Florida Panhandle.
Trump moved his official residence from New York to Florida earlier this year and his campaign invested heavily in campaign ads across the state. He held at least eight campaign events in Florida this year, focusing on the state’s seniors and Hispanic community, especially among Cuban-Americans.
Florida has long served as a bellwether state, backing the winner of every presidential election since 1996, including the contested 2000 election of George W. Bush over Al Gore.
Trump also scored victories in Texas and the Midwest battleground state of Ohio, two states the president carried in 2016 but were considered competitive this year. The president picked up 38 electoral votes in Texas and 18 electoral votes in Ohio in the march toward 270 electoral votes needed to secure his second term.
Nail-biter in the Democratic ‘blue wall’ states
Democrats were banking on a strong showing in traditional Democratic strongholds of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to put Biden on a glide path to victory, but as of Wednesday morning, Trump and Biden were running nearly even in the “blue wall” states as they counted their outstanding votes.
Trump narrowly won Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2016, but Democrats speculated Biden would be able to bring the three states’ Rust Belt voters back into the Democratic fold.
In Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said “hundreds of thousands of ballots” from the state’s largest jurisdictions, including Democratic-leaning cities, were still being counted as Biden closed the gap with Trump. She said later in the morning on CNN the state would have “a much more complete picture” by the end of Wednesday.
And in Wisconsin, Biden held on to a narrow lead as the state counted ballots and had yet to report results from the Democratic-leaning city of Kenosha. Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler declared victory for Biden and Harris on Twitter, even though there had not been an official call in the race, saying “there’s no realistic path for Trump to pull ahead.” Twitter later labeled his post as “disputed and might be misleading” about the election.
Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, was also a top target for both parties. Trump held the lead in the state, but only an estimated two-thirds of the vote had been counted in the state. Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said early Wednesday morning the state still had over a million ballots left to be counted.
The crucial swing state of Nevada, on the other hand, was not set to report more results until Thursday. The Nevada Secretary of State said Wednesday the state had counted all of its early and Election Day in-person votes and mail ballots through Nov. 2, but still had yet to count mail ballots received on or after Election Day and provisional ballots. Nevada was one of several states that mailed an absentee ballot to every registered active voter, which the state said made it difficult to determine how many votes were outstanding.
Trump claims victory, Biden optimistic about remaining votes
In the early hours of Wednesday, Trump prematurely claimed victory even as millions of mail-in ballots were still being tallied across several states while Biden insisted he was on track to win but urged patience until every vote is counted.
Speaking in the White House East Room at about 2:30 a.m. EST, Trump pointed to his preliminary lead in the pivotal battleground state of Pennsylvania as well as Georgia and North Carolina as evidence of his win despite outstanding votes in those states. Votes also are still being tabulated in the key battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan – which could hand Biden the presidency. Neither candidate had reached the 270 electoral vote-threshold needed to win the presidency.
Trump threatened to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the counting of legally cast absentee ballots still being tallied, calling it “fraud.” The president has repeatedly sought to undermine mail-in ballots, which are legally cast and tend to favor Democrats.
“This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country,” he said. “We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”
The president’s remarks drew swift bipartisan criticism, including from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a close Trump ally.
“There’s just no basis to make that argument tonight. There just isn’t,” Christie told ABC News. “I disagree with what he did tonight.”
Biden’s campaign called the president’s remarks “outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect.”
“It ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted,” Biden earlier told a crowd at drive-in campaign event in Wilmington. “Keep the faith guys. We’re going to win this.”
In several states not accustomed to high volumes of mail-in voting, including Rust Belt swing states Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, election officials cannot start counting ballots until on or just before Election Day. Other swing states, such as Minnesota, allow absentee ballots to be postmarked up to Election Day.
That means partial results released on election night in these states – though not official until all votes are counted and certified – will include mostly votes cast on Election Day.
Yet in other key states, like North Carolina, Florida and Arizona, absentee ballots have been processed for weeks by Election Day.
Big swings in results on election night had been expected. That doesn’t mean there are problems. It means every vote is being counted.
Biden flips Arizona
Democrats’ predictions they would expand their majority in the House fell short, and their pathway to a majority in the Senate seemed to fade, but in the first bright spot in the night for Democrats, Biden fliped Arizona blue
Biden’s victory was the first Democratic win in the state since 1996, when Bill Clinton won the state. The Associated Press called the state for Biden at 2:51 a.m. EST as Democrat Mark Kelly won the state’s Senate seat from Republican Martha McSally, who had aligned herself closely with the president.
Arizona is the first state Biden flipped from 2016. A redder-leaning state in previous elections, Trump won Arizona by close to 100,000 votes in 2016. Democrats banked on the state’s changing demographics and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s 2018 win over McSally in a Senate race as a sign of the state’s competitiveness this year, pouring millions of dollars into the Senate race and the presidential race.
Just before the Associated Press called the race, Trump said he could still win the presidency without Arizona.
“We don’t need that. That was just a state that, if we would have gotten it, it would have been nice, Arizona,” Trump said.
“That’s a turnaround,” Biden said of Arizona on Wednesday.