Biden Nears Election Victory as Battleground Counts Slow
(Bloomberg) -- Joe Biden was on the threshold of winning the White House with narrow leads over President Donald Trump in several battleground states, yet the final outcome remained stalled by the painstaking work of counting ballots.
Earlier Friday, the Democratic nominee overtook Trump to claim a slim advantage in Pennsylvania, where a victory would push him past the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency. He currently leads by 19,625 votes there, according to Associated Press, and the late-counted ballots are overwhelmingly in his favor.
Trump vowed to contest the results and questioned the integrity of the process, without providing evidence of voter fraud.
“We will pursue this process through every aspect of the law to guarantee the American people have confidence in our government,” the president said in a statement issued by his campaign earlier Friday.
As the nation awaited the final outcome, Biden also held close leads in Nevada and Georgia. The former vice president has also won Arizona, according to the Associated Press and Fox News, although his lead there is narrowing as counting continues and other television networks see that race as too close to call.
The prolonged count left voters and markets on edge for the end of a bitter campaign waged under the shadow a sharp economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. stocks registered the biggest weekly increase since April. The S&P 500 fell less than 0.05% in the wake of a four-day rally added more than $1.5 trillion to the value of stocks. The benchmark index climbed 7.3% this week.
The Biden campaign is setting up for a prime time speech Friday by both Biden and his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, in Wilmington, Delaware, in a sign of confidence that he will soon be able to claim victory.
‘Race Is Not Over’
Decision Desk HQ, an election-data firm, projected Biden will win Pennsylvania and therefore the presidency early Friday, but other news organizations have not followed suit. Bloomberg News does not use Decision Desk HQ projections to determine election winners.
The Trump campaign immediately rejected that call.
“This race is not over,” said Trump campaign lawyer Matt Morgan. He said the call was based on faulty projections in four states that he claimed had voting irregularities. “Biden is relying on these states for his phony claim on the White House, but once the election is final, President Trump will be re-elected.”
The Biden campaign, however, dismissed attacks on the results and concerns that Trump might not concede.
“The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House,” said campaign spokesman Andrew Bates.
Speaking Friday morning on CNBC, Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said he expects a “peaceful transfer of power” if Biden wins. “We abide by the rule of law and so will this president,” he said.
With the Georgia result razor thin -- Biden is currently up by only 4,224 votes -- the Georgia secretary of state said Friday there would be a recount of the presidential vote total there.
Trump’s campaign is promising legal challenges that could further draw out results. His campaign’s lawsuits to challenge the count, however, have gained little traction, with at least two being thrown out in Georgia and Michigan.
In many ways, the week has unfolded in the way many observers predicted, with Trump racking up leads in key states in votes counted on election night, while Biden has added to his totals with mail-in votes counted later that eroded Trump’s advantage. Trump has pointed to that change in his fortunes as evidence of fraud but volatility was expected because of increased mail-in voting due to the coronavirus.
In addition, Trump spent so much time before the election telegraphing his contention that only votes on Election Day should be counted, and his threat to challenge the results, that it gave legal experts a chance to educate voters ahead of time.
Close allies fanned out to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada to hold news conferences and make accusations of a rigged system, with little to no evidence. Legal challenges were largely aimed at slowing or pausing counting of the votes, and were generally unsuccessful.
But some Republicans spoke out against Trump’s unsubstantiated claims.
“I saw the president’s speech last night and it was very hard to watch,” Senator Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, said on NBC. “The president’s allegations of large-scale fraud and theft of the election are just not substantiated. I’m not aware of any significant wrongdoing here.”
Utah Senator Mitt Romney also slammed the president’s claims of sweeping fraud.
“He is wrong to say that the election was rigged, corrupt and stolen -- doing so damages the cause of freedom here and around the world, weakens the institutions that lie at the foundation of the Republic, and recklessly inflames destructive and dangerous passions,” Romney said on Twitter.
In Nevada, Biden’s lead jumped to 22,657 in Friday counting. The state has just six Electoral College votes, but would clinch the presidency for Biden if he also held neighboring Arizona.
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 Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka; as well as Chief of Staff Mark 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, his son signaled a long fight.
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.
But Biden is confident that he will win and urging patience. 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.
“Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well,” Biden said in a brief speech Thursday. “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.”
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