President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling it out for the White House, with polls gradually closing across the United States Tuesday and a long night of waiting for results ahead.
The first results are trickling in, with US media projecting wins for the Republican incumbent so far in 13 states including Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia — all states he won in 2016.
Biden has captured 12 states including his home state Delaware and big prize New York, plus the US capital Washington Connecticut. As with Trump, so far, all states claimed by Biden were won by Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The magic number (for electoral votes) is 270. Observers expect the hotly contested race for the White House to come down to a handful of key battleground states.
Trump’s campaign claimed victory in the must-win state of Florida, though US media said that race was still too close to call. The president’s campaign made the claim in a tweet as ballots were still being counted in the state that holds 29 state-by-state Electoral College votes.
The New York Times put the president’s chances of winning Florida at over 95 percent.
Counting this year has been slowed by the unprecedented use of mail-in ballots in response to fears of the coronavirus. More than 100 million Americans had already cast votes before Election Day.
Trump, 74, expressed confidence as the evening approached, tweeting in all his characteristic all-caps “WE ARE LOOKING REALLY GOOD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. THANK YOU!”
WE ARE LOOKING REALLY GOOD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. THANK YOU!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 3, 2020
He was watching the results come in at the White House, surrounded by staff. It was not clear whether he’d speak to the public at some point but he said earlier Tuesday that he wasn’t yet “thinking about a concession speech or acceptance speech.”
“Winning is easy,” he said. “Losing is never easy — not for me.”
Biden, hunkered down with family at home in Delaware, likewise said that voter patterns during the day seemed to favor his side.
“What I’m hearing is that there’s overwhelming turnout. And overwhelming turnout particularly of young people, of women, and an overwhelming turnout of African American voters, particularly in Georgia and Florida, over the age of 65,” he told reporters.
“The things that are happening bode well for the base that has been supporting me.”
Trump has repeatedly refused to confirm he will accept the results of the election — a first for a US president. He argues, without offering proof, that the vast number of mail-in ballots could be used to rig the polls against him.
In the final run-up to Election Day, Trump focused especially on Pennsylvania, which allows ballots postmarked by Election Day to be counted, even if they arrive afterward.
“The whole world is waiting,” Trump said early Tuesday.
“You can’t have these things delayed for many days,” he said, adding ominously that “a lot of bad things” can happen.
“We should be entitled to know who won on November 3,” he said.
However, he somewhat dampened fears that he will try to declare victory prematurely, telling Fox News that he will only declare “when there is victory.”
“There is no reason to play games,” he said.
Americans could not be more divided over Trump.
For some he represents a breath of fresh air who brought his business instincts to shake up the Washington establishment. For the other half of the country, he is a corrupt leader who wrecked the US reputation abroad and stoked dangerous racist and nationalist sentiments at home.
In Miami, Juan Carlos Bertran, a 60-year-old Cuban-American mechanic, said Trump “seems better to me for the country’s economy.”
“Now I have two jobs,” he said. “Before I only had one.”
But voting in New York, Megan Byrnes-Borderan, 35, said Trump’s threats to challenge the election results in the courts were “scary.”
“I believe that Trump will go through all odds to try to win the election,” she said.
Another New York voter, Justin Rodriguez, 32, said he was voting for Biden. “I really don’t like the tension,” he said. “I think Trump has brought a lot more tension than we usually have.”
Fearing unrest, store owners boarded up windows in Washington and other major cities.
Question of Covid
Biden has targeted widespread public disapproval for Trump’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 230,000 Americans.
Trump — who recovered quickly from his own bout with the virus in October — is gambling that Americans want to put the crisis behind them and reopen the economy fully. Biden, in contrast, is preaching caution and accuses the president of having abandoned his basic responsibilities.
“We’re done with the chaos! We’re done with the tweets, the anger, the hate, the failure, the irresponsibility,” Biden said at an election eve rally in Cleveland, Ohio.
Fears of Covid-19 drove the huge flow of early voters, encouraged by Biden. Trump has countered by holding dozens of mass election rallies with no social distancing, underlining his message that it’s time to move on.
Roughly one-third of the Senate is up for grabs and Republicans risk losing their 53-47 majority.