Joe Biden asked his supporters after a long Election Day to “keep the faith” as the vote counting went on in the drawn-out U.S. presidential election, while President Donald Trump prematurely claimed victory and falsely said in a tweet that his opponents were trying to “steal” the election.
The Democratic presidential nominee emerged Wednesday after midnight to speak on the election results that have left the outcome in the balance. Biden spent the evening watching the returns come in from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, then drove downtown by motorcade to make his statement outside the Chase Center.
Trump, meanwhile, in a tweet, contended: “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”
States typically allow for the counting of mail-in ballots after the polls are closed as long as the ballots are postmarked by Election Day. Twitter soon hid and flagged the president’s post, contending it “might be misleading about an election or other civic process.”
In a speech later at the White House early Wednesday, Trump went on to claim that his opponents were trying to disenfranchise his supporters and said: “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country.”
Trump promised legal action to stop the counting of votes.
Biden told a gathering of supporters that his hopes for victory remain high despite the uncertainty and cautioned them that it could take a day or longer to know who won.
He told them: “Your patience is commendable.”
Hours after the polls have closed across America, the result is up in the air.
Neither candidate had the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency during an epic campaign that will shape America’s response to the surging pandemic and foundational questions of economic fairness and racial justice.
The two men were locked in tight races across the country, with Trump retaining Florida and Texas and claiming the battlegrounds of Ohio and Iowa while Biden won Minnesota and New Hampshire, two modest prizes the president had hoped to take.
Races were too early to call in some of other fiercely contested and critical states on the map, including North Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania. The president, by early Wednesday, had retained many states he won in 2016 and, as long predicted, the race in part seemed to rest on the three northern industrial states where Trump most surprised the Democrats four year ago Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Millions of voters braved their worries about the virus — and some long lines — to turn out in person, joining 102 million fellow Americans who voted days or weeks earlier, a record number that represented 73% of the total vote in the 2016 presidential election.
Early results in several key battleground states were in flux as election officials processed a historically large number of mail-in votes. Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while the GOP looks to make up ground in Election Day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes — early or Election Day — were being reported by the states.
Florida was the biggest, fiercely contested battleground on the map, with both campaigns battling over its 29 Electoral College votes.
Trump adopted Florida as his new home state, wooed its Latino community, particularly Cuban-Americans, and held rallies there incessantly. For his part, Biden deployed his top surrogate — President Barack Obama — there twice in the campaign’s closing days and benefitted from a $100 million pledge in the state from Michael Bloomberg.
Control of the Senate was at stake, too: Democrats needed to net three seats if Biden captured the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. But Republicans maintained several seats that were considered vulnerable, including in Iowa, Texas and Kansas.
The parties traded a pair of seats in other early results: Democratic former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, and in Alabama Republican Tommy Tuberville knocked off Sen. Doug Jones. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control.
As the results began to come in, the nation braced for what was to come — and an outcome that might not be known for days.
Biden was watching from home with family and close aides. Trump was watching the results come in with a small group of allies in the White House residence as other staff and advisers floated between a party at the White House residence and various offices throughout the executive mansion complex.
Outside, a new anti-scaling fence was erected around the White House, and in downtowns from New York to Denver to Minneapolis, workers boarded up businesses lest the vote lead to unrest.
For Trump, the election stood as a judgment on his four years in office, a term in which he bent Washington to his will, challenged faith in its institutions and changed how America was viewed across the globe. Rarely trying to unite a country divided along lines of race and class, he has often acted as an insurgent against the government he led while undermining the nation’s scientists, bureaucracy and media.
Biden spent the day last-minute campaigning in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he was born, and in Philadelphia with a couple of local stops in Wilmington, Delaware, where he was spending Election Night.
The momentum from early voting carried into Election Day, as an energized electorate produced long lines at polling sites throughout the country. Turnout was higher than in 2016 in numerous counties, including all of Florida, nearly every county in North Carolina and more than 100 counties in both Georgia and Texas. That tally seemed sure to increase as more counties reported their turnout figures.
Voters braved worries of the coronavirus, threats of polling place intimidation and expectations of long lines caused by changes to voting systems, but appeared undeterred as turnout seemed ready to easily surpass the 139 million ballots cast four years ago.
No major problems arose on Tuesday, outside the typical glitches of a presidential election: Some polling places opened late, robocalls provided false information to voters in Iowa and Michigan, and machines or software malfunctioned in some counties in the battleground states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Texas.
The cybersecurity agency at the Department of Homeland Security said there were no outward signs by midday of any malicious activity.
The record-setting early vote — and legal skirmishing over how it would be counted — drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who had repeatedly refused to guarantee he would honor the election’s result.
With the coronavirus now surging anew, voters ranked the pandemic and the economy as top concerns in the race between Trump and Biden, according to AP VoteCast, a national survey of the electorate.
Voters were especially likely to call the public health crisis the nation’s most important issue, with the economy following close behind. Fewer named health care, racism, law enforcement, immigration or climate change
The survey found that Trump’s leadership loomed large in voters’ decision-making. Nearly two-thirds of voters said their vote was about Trump — either for him or against him.