Former vice-president Joe Biden didn’t declare victory on Friday night, but he did tell voters across the United States he believes he has the upper hand as the vote count continues.
“We don’t have a final declaration of victory yet but the numbers tell us a clear and convincing story. We’re going to win this race,” Biden said from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden stood on stage flanked by California senator Kamala Harris, his running mate. “Just look at what has happened since yesterday. Twenty-four hours [ago] we were behind in Georgia now we’re ahead, and we’re going to win that state. Twenty-four hours ago we were behind in Pennsylvania, and we are going to win Pennsylvania. Now we’re ahead, but we’re winning in Arizona, we’re winning in Nevada. In fact our lead just doubled in Nevada.”
The former vice-president spoke as Americans anxiously await counting to conclude in a handful of states. Biden is ahead in the key swing states, with his lead widening as more votes get counted.
On Friday, Biden took the lead in Pennsylvania, whose 20 electoral votes alone are enough to carry him over the threshold. He remained ahead in Nevada, and took the lead in Georgia, where the margin was so slim that the state declared there would be a recount. Trump has a narrow lead in North Carolina, and is expected to win the state of Alaska. Biden’s lead in Arizona, which the Associated Press has called for Biden while other media organizations say it remains too close to call, has slightly shrunk.
As Biden’s inches closer to the presidency, however, Trump reportedly was not ready to concede. After the lead slipped in Pennsylvania, the White House put out a statement insisting “this election is not over”.
“Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!” Trump tweeted.
Those legal challenges from the Trump campaign and the larger Republican apparatus have slowed down the counting process. The campaign has taken legal action in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada. But legal experts have noted that the lawsuits appear to be long shots and even if successful, they would not change the outcome of the race.
The president and some allied groups have argued, paradoxically, that vote counting in some states should stop and in other places (where Trump might benefit)should continue.
Biden is increasingly favored to emerge as the president-elect when all the counting is over however, and on Friday evening said he was confident of a victory.
“And look at the national numbers. We’re going to win this race with a clear majority of the nation behind us,” Biden said.
The Biden campaign had originally planned to formally declare victory on Friday evening, appearing to believe news outlets would have called the race by then.The campaign had said vice-presidential nominee Harris would introduce Biden, long time supporters and top Democrats, including senior Biden campaign staffers, Democratic national committee chairman Tom Perez, and Louisiana congressman Cedric Richmond, as well as longtime local supporters, had gathered at the Chase Center in anticipation.
Biden himself, three days out from election night, was visibly upbeat, smiling through his short speech.
“We’re going to be the first Democrat to win Arizona in 24 years,” Biden said, smiling. “We’re going to be the first Democrat to win Georgia in 28 years, and we’ve rebuilt the blue wall in the middle of the country that crumbled just four years ago. Michigan, Wisconsin, the heartland of this nation.”
Biden stressed patience.
“I know watching these tallies on TV moves very slowly and as slow as it goes it can be numbing,” he said.
And he looked ahead. “While we’re waiting for the final results I want people to know we’re not waiting to get the work done,” Biden said, adding that on Thursday, he and Harris met with experts on the economy and the coronavirus.
“We have serious problems to deal with – from Covid to our economy to racial justice to the climate change,” Biden said. “We don’t have any more time to waste on partisan warfare.”
“I’ve said many, many times, I’ve never been more optimistic about the future of our nation,” he added.
Meanwhile, Trump and his campaign looked increasingly desperate as reports of internal finger-pointing grew and long-shot legal challenges became more unlikely.
In the months leading up to 3 November, Trump had vowed to wage a serious legal defense if re-election appeared to be slipping away. But the campaign’s response in recent days has been a clumsy set of lawsuits that in reality could only slow the count. Aides and staffers have told national news outlets that there’s no set of competent leaders helming the legal defense strategy.
At the Chase center, Biden ally and Delaware senator Chris Coons appeared unimpressed by the Trump campaign’s approach. “I’ve seen nothing in these lawsuits that have any chance of affecting the outcome” , he told the Guardian. “I’ve been really struck by the incoherence of the arguments made by the president. Principally, ‘I want the counting to stop’ at a moment when, if it stops, Joe Biden’s the winner. He’s arguing at the same time that there’s some vast conspiracy that has somehow worked to his disadvantage when at the same moment in many states the Democratic challengers didn’t win for Senate or Democratic challengers were unsuccessful in taking House seats.”
Meanwhile, Republicans in Congress have offered only a half-hearted front of support for Trump. Some have echoed Trump’s unfounded accusations that the election results are rife with fraud. But others have gently said that while every vote should be counted, both Trump and Biden should accept the ultimate results.
“I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the president to wait for that number to be apparent,” said Missouri Senator Roy Blunt at the Capitol, according to Politico. “I also don’t think it’s unreasonable for Vice-president Biden to accept the unofficial result and do whatever he thinks he should do. Part of the obligation of leadership is you should always have in your mind: ‘How do I leave?’”
Comment’s such as Blunts have lead even some Republican staffers to conclude privately that calls by Trump’s allies to drop his efforts to fight the election results might have to end soon.
On Friday evening, another challenge emerged for the Trump administration with reports that Mark Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, had tested positive for Covid-19.