WASHINGTON, D.C. — Joe Biden has a sliver of a lead in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania and Georgia. President Trump’s slight lead in Pennsylvania diminished on Friday as mail-in ballots from across the state continued to be counted. Those ballots were overwhelmingly in Biden’s favor, giving him an edge by some 6,000 votes.
Major news media, including those like the Associated Press (AP) that have shown Biden as needing only seven more electoral votes to win the presidency, did not yet call Pennsylvania as there are tens of thousands of votes still left to be counted. We may not know the results for a few days, and if there is less than a half percentage point difference between Biden’s and Trump’s vote totals, Pennsylvania state law triggers an automatic recount.
As of very early Friday morning, Biden also commanded a lead in Georgia. That lead is literally less than a thousand votes, though close to 98 percent of the vote has been counted in that state. Yet it was too early to call the race there, and just like Pennsylvania, thousands of ballots were still left to be counted. Many of those votes come from counties where Biden has done well.
Later in the morning on Friday, Georgia’s secretary of state announced there will be a recount in the state due to the thin margin between Biden and Trump. Officials say they expect to know the result by the end of November.
“With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia,” Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said at a news conference on Friday.
Candidates can request a recount under Georgia law if the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent. About 1,600 votes separated the two candidates on Friday morning.
Either way, Pennsylvania and Georgia carry hefty electoral weight and can decide the election soon enough. Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes, while Georgia has 16. By comparison, Nevada, another Biden-led state that is too early to call, only has six electoral votes.
Some conservative projections, like the New York Times, put Biden at 253 total electoral votes. Others like the AP and Google, show Biden at 264 votes. Either way, a win in Pennsylvania or wins in Georgia and Nevada would get Biden well past the 270 votes needed to put him in the White House.
As of early Friday, Trump’s campaign continued to insist that the race is far from over. On Thursday, Trump again offered more unsupported accusations of voter fraud. Such accusations that a political rival is operating an elaborate scheme to steal the presidency is indeed unprecedented in American political history.
“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room. Trump spoke for about 10 minutes and stormed out without answering questions from reporters.
Biden, on the other hand, asked Americans to stay calm.
“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” Biden said. “It is the will of the voters, no one, not anyone else, who chooses the president of the United States of America.”
Trump’s remarks followed a series of Twitter posts he made 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’s lead in the national popular vote broke 4 million on Thursday night, 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.