Intl desk, Nov 07: Democrat Joe Biden said he was going to win the U.S. presidency as his lead grew over President Donald Trump in battleground states, although television networks held off from declaring him the victor as vote-counting continued.
“The numbers tell us … it’s a clear and convincing story: We’re going to win this race,” Biden said late on Friday, adding that he and his running mate Kamala Harris were already meeting with experts as they prepare for the White House.
Trump, 74, has been defiant as his chances of re-election fade. He has repeatedly made unfounded claims of fraud and his campaign is pursuing a series of lawsuits that legal experts say are unlikely to alter the election outcome.
Americans have been waiting longer than in any presidential election since 2000 to learn the winner, with counting slowed by a record number of mail-in ballots. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted many to avoid voting in person on Tuesday’s Election Day.
Biden, 77, has a 253-to-214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, according to Edison Research.
The former vice president edged closer to victory when he took the lead on Friday in Pennsylvania, one of four critical states that will determine the election winner and where votes are still being counted. Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes would put him over the 270 he needs to win the presidency.
In the early hours of Saturday, Biden’s slim lead widened in Georgia to put him ahead by 7,248 votes with the count 99% complete.
In Pennsylvania, he led by 27,130 votes with 96% of the vote complete, while in Nevada, he led by 22,657 votes with 93% of the count complete. In Arizona, Biden’s lead narrowed to 29,861 votes with 97% of the tally completed.
With thousands of votes still to count, it was not clear when the contest would conclude, though further updates were expected on Saturday.
Biden backers danced in Philadelphia’s streets, while armed Trump supporters in Phoenix and Detroit said the election was being stolen, despite no evidence of widespread irregularities. Under the banner of “Stop the Steal,” Trump supporters planned dozens of rallies for Saturday.
NO VICTORY SPEECH YET
Biden’s speech in his home state of Delaware was originally planned as a victory celebration, but he changed his approach in the absence of a call on the result from television networks and other election forecasters.
Trump kept out of view in the White House on Friday. He said in a statement issued by his campaign that “all legal ballots must be counted and all illegal ballots should not be counted,” while accusing Democrats of resisting that call.
Election officials say there has been no evidence of fraud.
Although the popular vote does not determine the outcome, Biden leads Trump by 4.18 million votes nationwide out of a record 147 million cast. He said on Friday Americans had given him a mandate to tackle the pandemic, the struggling economy, climate change and systemic racism.
“They made it clear they want the country to come together, not continue to pull apart,” said Biden, who is making his third bid for the White House in a political career spanning five decades.
Biden, who said he hoped to address Americans again on Saturday, said Trump’s demands to stop the count would not work.
“Your vote will be counted. I don’t care how hard people try to stop it. I will not let it happen,” Biden said.
Trump showed no sign he was ready to concede.
“Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!” he wrote on Twitter.
A Trump adviser described the campaign’s litigation strategy as chaotic and disorganized. Another Republican official said it was doubtful the lawsuits would yield a Trump victory.
“This race is over, and the only person who doesn’t see it is Donald Trump,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Republicans aimed to raise at least $60 million for legal costs, although the fine print on solicitations indicates that more than half the money raised would go to paying down the campaign’s debts.
In another blow to Trump’s efforts, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Meadows, who frequently appears at public events without a mask, is the latest person within Trump’s circle to contract the virus, which has killed more than 236,000 people in the United States and is still sweeping the country.