Democratic nominee Joe Biden closed in on the presidency Wednesday, with projected victories in the critical states of Michigan and Wisconsin. With only Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania yet to be called among the swing states, Biden is in striking distance of the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the election.
President Donald Trump has a considerably narrower path to remain in the White House. He lags behind Biden in projected Electoral College votes, and would have to fare better in final counts than he is currently to make up the gap.
And although the Electoral College decides the presidency, the popular vote is tilted heavily toward Biden, who broke the record for support in a U.S. presidential election with 70 million votes.
With a loss increasingly likely, Trump and his allies are doing what they have hinted at for months: claiming victory prematurely, insisting mail-in ballots for Democrats are invalid, baselessly saying votes were cast after polls were closed and filing lawsuits meant to stop counting votes.
On Wednesday afternoon, Trump proclaimed ― falsely ― that he had won in Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina.
“We have claimed, for Electoral Vote purposes, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (which won’t allow legal observers) the State of Georgia, and the State of North Carolina, each one of which has a BIG Trump lead,” the president wrote on Twitter.
“Additionally, we hereby claim the State of Michigan if, in fact ... there was a large number of secretly dumped ballots as has been widely reported!” Trump continued.
Twitter included a note on both of Trump’s tweets, noting: “Some or all of the content shared in this Tweet is disputed and might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”
The president is lying. There are no credible reports that a large number of ballots were “secretly dumped” in Michigan, a state that multiple news networks called for Biden on Wednesday afternoon. Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Georgia are still too close to call. Nevada’s results are also pending.
Biden, meanwhile, urged his supporters to keep the faith and to wait until the election was called.
“I’m not here to declare that we’ve won,” Biden said Wednesday afternoon. “But I am here to report, when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.”
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Biden was projected early Wednesday to win Arizona, the first state to flip parties from the 2016 presidential election and a critical win that narrowed Trump’s path to victory. Biden also leads in Nevada, with outstanding absentee ballots still to be counted in heavily Democratic Clark County. Trump holds leads in Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, but uncounted absentee ballots are likely to erode that lead in Georgia and erase it in Pennsylvania.
For the latest results, maps and more, check out HuffPost’s elections hub.
Trump first declared victory in the early hours of Wednesday morning, well before a number of states were called. He preemptively declared a “BIG” win and tweeted, falsely, that Democrats “are trying to STEAL the election.” He declared that, “Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!” (Totals are still coming in because it takes time to count votes, not because votes were cast after polls closed.)
Close to 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, in a brief appearance before supporters at the White House, Trump falsely declared that he had won the election and falsely called the continued counting of votes “a fraud on the American public.” He then announced that he is “going to the U.S. Supreme Court” to stop the counting of votes. He continued to complain baselessly about absentee ballots on Twitter on Wednesday morning in several posts that the platform quickly labeled as potentially “misleading.”
Trump’s lawyers are now swooping into crucial states to contest and discount validly cast votes.
As of Wednesday evening, the Trump campaign had filed suits in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania, and is expected to do the same in Nevada and North Carolina. The Trump campaign also called for a recount in Wisconsin.
The election may then move to the uncertain terrain of the courts now stacked with Trump appointees, including three on the Supreme Court ― Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett.
The extended process to project the next president is the result of the changing patterns in voting produced by the pandemic. In order to avoid spreading the virus, far more voters than ever before ― more than 100 million ― cast their votes early, 65 million of them by absentee ballot. While voters changed their behavior, many states only slightly modified theirs.
The Republican-controlled legislatures in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin refused to allow election officials to process and count absentee ballots before Election Day. This differs from states such as Florida and Ohio, which were able to count their ballots ahead of time and report them early on election night.
Cases regarding the extension of the absentee ballot receipt deadline in North Carolina and Pennsylvania went up to the Supreme Court, where a divided court just barely allowed the extensions to remain. But at least four conservative justices ― Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas ― appear happy to invalidate those extensions and the ballots received during them, just as Trump wants. The recently confirmed Barrett is the unknown.
There are other legal cases surely to come. Republicans have already filed suit in Pennsylvania challenging the state’s process allowing voters to fix errors on their absentee ballots. But the forthcoming court cases may ultimately not matter if Biden hits 270 electoral votes before Pennsylvania gets to a final result.
While Biden and Trump may be headed to a showdown in the courts, control of the Senate remains up in the air ― though Democrats’ chances at a majority appeared to have narrowed significantly.
Republicans quickly triumphed in two states that were reaches for Democrats in the battle for the Senate: South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham defeated Democrat Jaime Harrison, and GOP Rep. Roger Marshall defeated state Sen. Barbara Bollier in Kansas for an open seat. On Wednesday, Republican Sen. Susan Collins became the projected victor in Maine, one of the seats Democrats hoped to pick up. Those victories likely eliminate the chances of a substantial Democratic majority and could hamper Biden’s ability to enact his agenda if he wins.
But Democrats ousted Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, and Democrat Mark Kelly was projected to beat Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Doug Jones lost handily to Republican Tommy Tuberville in Alabama, as expected. The Senate race in North Carolina is leaning toward Republican Sen. Thom Tillis, although it has not yet been called.
Democrats had expected to romp in the battle for the House of Representatives, but a mixed picture is emerging instead. They are certain to maintain control of the chamber, but several Democratic incumbents ― including Florida Reps. Donna Shalala and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer, Minnesota Rep. Colin Peterson, New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, Oklahoma Rep. Kendra Horn and South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham ― lost their reelection bids, and others were endangered. Democrats were also hopeful of knocking off a number of GOP House incumbents in Texas, but they fell short.