US elections: Biden nearing victory

Trump has again alleged voting fraud without providing evidence, filed lawsuits and called for at least one state recount.

Joe Biden and Donald Trump (photo credit: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE AND CARLOS BARRIA)
Joe Biden and Donald Trump
WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON, Del. - With his re-election chances fading as more votes are counted in a handful of battleground states, US President Donald Trump launched an extraordinary assault on the country's democratic process from the White House on Thursday, falsely claiming the election was being "stolen" from him.
Offering no evidence, Trump lambasted election workers and alleged fraud in the states where results from a dwindling set of uncounted votes are pushing Democrat Joe Biden nearer to victory.
"This is a case where they're trying to steal an election," Trump said, who spoke for about 15 minutes in the White House briefing room before leaving without taking questions.
Biden, the former vice president, was steadily eating away the Republican incumbent's leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia even as he maintained narrow advantages in Nevada and Arizona, moving closer to securing the 270 votes in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner.
In Pennsylvania, Trump's lead had shrunk from 319,000 on Wednesday afternoon to about 24,500 a day later, while his margin in Georgia fell from 68,000 to about 1,800. Those numbers were expected to continue to move in Biden's favor, with many of the outstanding ballots from areas that typically vote Democratic, including the cities of Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Biden, meanwhile, saw his lead in Arizona contract from 93,000 to 46,000; he was ahead in Nevada by only 11,000 votes.
Biden would become the next president by winning Pennsylvania, or by winning two out of the trio of Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. Trump's likeliest path appeared narrower - he needed to hang onto Pennsylvania and Georgia while overtaking Biden in either Nevada or Arizona.
Most major television networks gave Biden a 253 to 214 lead in Electoral College votes, which are largely determined by state population, after he captured the crucial states of Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday.
As demonstrators marched in several U.S. cities for a second straight day, the election lay in the hands of civil employees who were methodically counting hundreds of thousands of ballots, many of which were sent by mail amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Final results in each state could take days. Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said on Thursday afternoon the state still had about 350,000 ballots yet to count but expected the vast majority to be tallied by Friday.
In Georgia, Gabriel Sterling, an election official, said it would "take time" to process tens of thousands of remaining ballots. Arizona, where there were at least 400,000 ballots remaining, and Nevada, which had 190,000 uncounted votes, were also expected to take days to complete their tallies.
Trump's remarks followed a series of Twitter posts from Trump earlier in the day that called for vote counting to stop, even though he currently trails Biden in enough states to hand the Democrat the presidency.
Trump's campaign, meanwhile, pursued a flurry of lawsuits in Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania, though judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly rejected the challenges. Legal experts said the cases had little chance of affecting the electoral outcome.
Biden wrote on Twitter shortly after Trump's White House appearance, "No one is going to take our democracy away from us." In earlier remarks from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden expressed confidence he would win and urged calm as votes were tallied.
"Democracy's sometimes messy," Biden said. "It sometimes requires a little patience as well. But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years in a system of governance that has been the envy of the world."
A new Reuters/Ipsos poll showed a bipartisan majority of Americans rejecting Trump's premature victory declaration in favor of counting all votes.
The close election underscored the nation's deep political divides, while the slow count of millions of mail-in ballots served as a reminder of the deadly pandemic that continues to upend American life.
Biden, if he prevails, will nevertheless have failed to deliver the sweeping repudiation to Trump that Democrats had hoped for, reflecting the deep support the president enjoys despite his tumultuous four years in office. Trump's influence on the Republican Party will remain strong, even if he ultimately loses a tight election.
The winner will face a pandemic that has killed more than 234,000 Americans and left millions more out of work, even as the country still grapples with the aftermath of months of unrest over race relations and police brutality.
Biden led Trump by more than 3.9 million in the national popular vote, though that plays no role in deciding the winner. Trump lost the popular vote by about 3 million to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016, when he secured an upset victory by winning key states in the Electoral College.
He is trying to avoid becoming the first incumbent U.S. president to lose a re-election bid since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Trump, who often relished legal battles during his turbulent business career, was at the White House working the phones and monitoring developments on television, two Trump advisers said. He has been talking to state governors as well as close friends and aides and dispatched some of his closest advisers out in the field to fight for him.
"He's very engaged, he's monitoring, talking to all the states," a Trump confidant said. "It doesn't look good but this guy wants to keep fighting. He's in a fighting mood right now. He's not melancholy or dejected. But the path is getting harder and harder."
Twitter and Facebook have flagged numerous posts from Trump since Election Day as misleading.
Trump's rhetoric had gained traction with some supporters, however. A Facebook group called "Stop the Steal" pushing false claims of voter fraud gained hundreds of thousands of members on Thursday before the social media giant took down the page, citing calls for violence.
Supporters of both candidates also held small protests outside voting centers on Thursday, though the demonstrations were largely peaceful.
Trump, who during the long and rancorous campaign attacked the integrity of the US voting system, has again alleged voting fraud without providing evidence, filed lawsuits and called for at least one state recount.
Trump’s campaign called for a recount in Wisconsin, where Biden led by roughly 21,000 votes out of 3.3 million cast, a margin slim enough to entitle him to a recount. However, elections experts said a recount in Wisconsin was seen as unlikely to alter the result.
Trump’s campaign announced plans to file a Nevada lawsuit alleging a series of voting irregularities in populous Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, such as voting by people who left the state or were deceased.
His campaign also filed lawsuits in Michigan and Pennsylvania to stop vote counting. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, in charge of elections, called the Trump team’s lawsuit “frivolous.”
Justin Clark, Trump 2020 deputy campaign manager and senior counsel, said in a statement on Thursday that “in a major victory for election integrity... the Trump campaign has prevailed in our suit challenging our Republican poll watchers’ complete lack of any meaningful access to the ballot processing and counting process.”
Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit in Georgia to require that Chatham County, which includes the city of Savannah, separate and secure late-arriving ballots to ensure that they are not counted.
It also asked the US Supreme Court to allow Trump to join a pending lawsuit filed by Pennsylvania Republicans over whether the battleground state should be permitted to accept late-arriving ballots that were mailed by Election Day.
Some legal experts called the challenges a long shot unlikely to affect the eventual outcome of the election, one of the most unusual presidential races in modern US history due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Concern about the virus caused a huge jump in people voting by mail, delaying the results.
Still, Biden was leading in Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona and closing in on Trump in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Multiple Trump lawsuits and a recount request would have to succeed and find in some cases tens of thousands of invalid ballots to reverse the results if Biden does prevail.
“What we are seeing on these legal suits is that they are meritless, and nothing more than an attempt to distract and delay what is now inevitable: Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States,” Biden’s campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon told reporters.
TRUMP’S CAMPAIGN predicted victory, with campaign manager Bill Stepien saying, “Donald Trump is alive and well” in the election.
Some of the outstanding votes in Georgia and Pennsylvania were clustered in places expected to lean Democratic – like the Atlanta and Philadelphia areas.
In Georgia, officials expressed hope that they would have a resolution in their vote count by the end of Thursday. Trump’s eroding lead stood at around 3,400, with about 1% of the ballots remaining to be tallied. The president’s lead was about 64,000 votes in Pennsylvania, with about 6% of the ballots left to be counted.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said on Thursday afternoon that “there are approximately 50,401 ballots still outstanding.”
Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar estimated in an interview with CNN that the state could report “the overwhelming majority of votes” by Thursday night, US time. There were an estimated 550,000 votes outstanding as of Thursday morning. “They have been doing this as quickly as they can but it takes time,” she said of the counting process.
Clark County registrar of voters Joe Gloria said on Thursday that he expects to have “the bulk” of the mail ballots done by Saturday or Sunday. “We won’t complete until November 12th,” he said, rejecting claims of voter fraud. Gloria added that some 50,000 outstanding ballots will be counted in Clark County on Thursday and would be reported by Friday at 10 a.m.
Jon Ralston, editor of the Nevada Independent website tweeted that with Biden leading by 11.4 thousand votes in Nevada, Democrats are expected to win the outstanding 63,000 mail ballots from Election Day. “That leaves 60K provisionals, which have been evenly split. I see no path left for Trump here,” he tweeted.
TRUMP HAS  to win the states where he is still ahead, including North Carolina, plus either Arizona or Nevada, to triumph and avoid becoming the first incumbent US president to lose a reelection bid since fellow Republican George H. W. Bush did in 1992.
The president appears to have grown more upset as his leads in some states have diminished or evaporated during the counting. On Thursday morning, he weighed in on Twitter, writing, “STOP THE COUNT!” and “STOP THE FRAUD!” although he has no authority over ballot counting.
He has been talking to state governors as well as close friends and advisers, and dispatched some of these closest advisers out into the field to fight for him.
The exceedingly close election has underscored the political polarization in the US and the deep divisions along racial, socioeconomic, religious and generational lines as well as between urban and rural areas.
The counting and court challenges set the stage for days if not weeks of uncertainty before December 8, the deadline to resolve election disputes. The president is sworn into office on January 20, 2021.
Biden had drawn about 3.6 million more votes than Trump nationwide. Trump defeated Democrat Clinton in 2016 after winning crucial battleground states and securing the Electoral College win even though she won about 3 million more in the popular votes nationwide.