US election: Joe Biden pulls ahead in Pennsylvania, Georgia as country awaits a winner

In Arizona, Biden's advantage shrank slightly, but not by as much as Republicans had hoped. In Nevada, Biden nearly doubled his lead Friday to around 20,000 votes

The New York Times November 07, 2020 00:23:44 IST
US election: Joe Biden pulls ahead in Pennsylvania, Georgia as country awaits a winner

Wilmington: Joe Biden stood on the cusp of the presidency Friday, seizing a lead over US president Donald Trump in both Pennsylvania and Georgia and building on his lead in Nevada as he drew ever closer to securing the 270 electoral votes needed to lay claim to the White House.

Biden, who was winning the popular vote by more than 4 million votes and has already won 253 electoral votes, pulled ahead of Trump in Pennsylvania by about 9,000 votes Friday morning. If his lead holds — and it is expected to — the state’s 20 electoral votes would vault him past the threshold to win the election. In Georgia, his lead was so narrow that state officials said a recount was inevitable.

In Arizona, Biden maintained his lead as election officials continued to plow through tens of thousands of ballots from Phoenix and its sprawling suburbs. His advantage shrank slightly, but not by as much as Republicans had hoped. In Nevada, Biden nearly doubled his lead Friday to around 20,000 votes.

Biden had already begun to project the image of a man preparing to assume the mantle of office Thursday, meeting with his economic and health advisers to be briefed on the coronavirus pandemic.

He also urged the public Thursday to show a “little patience” as the vote-counting in battleground states continued.

“Democracy,” he said, “can sometimes be messy.”

Biden kept a low profile Friday morning. But outside the Westin Hotel near his home in Wilmington, signs of celebration were afoot. Someone passed out Biden-Harris signs and attached them to a security barrier near a stage bedecked with American flags where Biden was expected to speak.

Thomas Kunish, 40, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 100 miles away, said he had driven in to show support with his 5-year-old son, spending the night in the car. The last time he voted, he said, was for George W Bush in 2000.

“It was interesting, the past four years,” Kunish, who works in the defense industry, said of Trump’s presidency. “There was hope when he got elected, things maybe would change.” Instead, he said, the Trump administration was marked by “turmoil". He and his son were hoping to see fireworks Friday night.

Biden’s appeal to let the process play out contrasted with that of Trump, who took the lectern in the White House briefing room to falsely claim that the election was riddled with fraud, as part of an elaborate coast-to-coast conspiracy by Democrats, the news media and Silicon Valley to deny him a second term.

As the number of outstanding ballots slowly dwindled, Trump was left increasingly with only legal challenges to forestall defeat, while Biden was betting on the steady accumulation of mail-in ballots to keep him on top in Pennsylvania.

Biden’s wins in the Midwestern battleground states of Michigan and Wisconsin put him in a strong position, with multiple paths to victory, depending on what happens in the states yet to be called. Trump needed a victory in Pennsylvania.

The process was agonising for partisans on both sides, though for the most part, fears of widespread unrest did not materialise. Officials reported few instances of problems with the vote-counting process.

The candidates’ differing reactions hinted at how they are likely to handle the coming days and weeks as the counting gives way to legal challenges, calls for recounts, and a potentially turbulent transition.

Biden’s pivot to policy issues seemed intended to create an air of inevitability about his victory. His briefing on the pandemic was a reminder that the United States reported a record 1,21,200 new infections Thursday.

With a lead in Pennsylvania, Biden nears victory in the state and the election

Biden took the lead over Trump in Pennsylvania on Friday morning as Democrats grew increasingly confident that he would win the state and with it the presidency: the state’s 20 electoral votes would put Biden, who has 253 electoral votes, past the threshold for victory.

By late Friday morning, after more votes were counted from Philadelphia and other counties that have supported Biden, he led Trump by more than 9,700 votes.

Biden had steadily erased Trump’s early lead in the state — at one point, the president led by half a million votes — as ballots, mostly absentee and mail-in votes, were counted over the past few days. Most of the remaining uncounted votes in the state are in Democratic-leaning areas.

The “overwhelming majority” of the state’s remaining votes will be counted by Friday, Kathy Boockvar, the Pennsylvania secretary of state, told CNN, adding that the voter counters were “working incredibly hard.”

On Thursday, Pennsylvania Democratic officials said their analysis of the uncounted votes gave them confidence that Biden would win the state by a substantial margin.

“We believe when the votes are counted, it’s pretty clear that Joe Biden’s going to be president of the United States, because he’s going to win Pennsylvania,” said state Sen. Sharif Street, the vice chair of the state Democratic Party.

As vote counting at Philadelphia’s convention center continued Thursday night, two men with guns were arrested nearby after officers received a tip that armed people were driving to the building in a Hummer. A local news station aired footage of decals on the Hummer and a hat inside that seemed to reference QAnon, the baseless conspiracy theory that a clique of pedophiles are plotting against Trump. The police would not comment on the men’s motives.

Trump has baselessly insisted that post-Election Day tallies showing Biden leading in battleground states, including Pennsylvania, were the result of fraud, and has vowed to challenge them in court. His campaign showed no sign of an imminent concession Friday morning.

“The false projection of Joe Biden as the winner is based on results in four states that are far from final,” a lawyer for the Trump campaign said in a statement.

Andrew Bates, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said that if Biden won the election and Trump refused to concede, “The United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”

As Biden takes the lead in Georgia, state officials say a recount is inevitable

As Biden took a narrow lead over Trump in Georgia, Georgia’s secretary of state said Friday that the presidential race there was so close that a recount was inevitable.

As of late Friday morning, Biden led Trump in Georgia by about 1,600 votes.

“With a margin that small, there will be a recount in Georgia,” the secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, said Friday morning at the state Capitol.

He added: “The final tally in Georgia at this point has huge implications for the entire country. The stakes are high and emotions are high on all sides. We will not let those debates distract us from our work. We will get it right, and we will defend the integrity of our elections.”

US election Joe Biden pulls ahead in Pennsylvania Georgia as country awaits a winner

File image of US president Donald Trump. AP

Gabriel Sterling, an official with the secretary of state’s office, said that a pool of about 4,200 ballots — most of them absentee ballots — remained to be tallied in four counties: Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee and Floyd. The largest tranche to be counted was in Gwinnett County, which contains Atlanta suburban communities and has gone from leaning Republican to leaning Democratic in recent years.

The state must also deal with ballots from military and overseas voters, which will be counted if they arrive in the mail before the end of business Friday and were postmarked by Tuesday.

Sterling said that the unofficial tally of the votes could be completed by the end of the weekend.

Flipping Georgia, a state last won by a Democrat in 1992, and where Trump won by more than 200,000 votes four years ago, would represent a significant political shift this year, but the state has shown signs of trending blue. When Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016, he did so by 5 percentage points, a far slimmer margin than Republicans had enjoyed in previous presidential elections.

Biden’s late surge in this year’s count, thanks to his dominance in Atlanta, Savannah and the increasingly Democratic-friendly suburbs around both, transformed the competition in a traditionally Republican-leaning state into one of the closest contests in the nation.

As the count narrowed and it appeared that the two candidates would be separated by the slimmest of margins, Democrats urged voters in the state to fix ballots that had been rejected because of invalid or missing signatures before the deadline Friday evening.

Those who voted absentee — a group that this year has been heavily Democratic — can check online to see whether election officials have accepted or rejected their ballots. Absentee ballots are often rejected when the voter forgets to sign or uses a signature that does not match the one on file with the state, in some cases because the filed signature is many years old. Election officials are supposed to contact voters in such cases but are not always able to do so.

Voters have until 5 p.m. Friday to submit an affidavit form to “cure” such ballots. With Georgia hanging in the balance as the last votes are counted, national Democrats — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York — are amplifying the message in hopes of salvaging every vote possible.

Both Georgia Senate races appear headed for runoffs as Senate control hangs in the balance

With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, Republicans and Democrats began positioning themselves Friday for a pair of high-stakes January Senate runoffs in Georgia that could serve as a referendum to cement or upend the results of Tuesday’s election, even as one of the races remained uncalled.

Senator David Perdue, a Republican, was narrowly leading his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff, in the uncalled race. But as protracted counting dragged on, he fell below the 50% threshold needed to win outright. He was not expected to clear that bar with many of the remaining votes coming from Democratic counties.

Georgia’s special Senate election has been destined for a runoff since Tuesday, when the Rev. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and Senator Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, emerged as the top two vote-getters in a crowded field vying to replace the retired Sen. Johnny Isakson.

Democrats would need to win both seats 5 January — a steep task in a state with deep conservative roots — to draw the Senate to a 50-50 tie, but they were riding a wave of liberal enthusiasm and demographic change that appeared poised to deliver victory in Georgia to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1992.

If former Vice President Joe Biden prevails in winning the White House, his vice president could cast tie-breaking votes to give the party de-facto control.

Facing such extraordinarily high stakes, both parties were quickly preparing themselves for a nine-week year-end sprint that some estimated could ultimately cost at least another $100 million and put Georgia at the centre of the nation’s political fray just two weeks before Inauguration Day.

Democrats around the country were already mobilising to use the contests to complete Biden’s victory and make possible the liberal agenda on health care, the economy and the environment he ran on.

“Change has come to Georgia,” Ossoff said in a rally in Atlanta on Friday. “And Georgia is a part of the change coming to America.”

Republicans were ready to try to harness the grievance among Trump’s most ardent supporters, hoping that the president’s baseless claims of fraud and a backlash to his potential loss could power them to a win in January. Over the last 24 hours, Loeffler has repeatedly tweeted support for the president, who is falsely claiming that the election is being illegally stolen from him.

US election Joe Biden pulls ahead in Pennsylvania Georgia as country awaits a winner

Trump supporter Jake Contos chants during a protest against the election results outside the central counting board in Detroit. AP

Loeffler said that she donated to a fund fighting for the president’s cause.

“Praying for four more years of @realDonaldTrump!” she wrote in another message.

With Trump defying the election results, it was hard to predict how involved he might be in the Senate races. But early Friday morning, he insinuated in a tweet that Democrats were still trying to claim power through nefarious means so they could reverse Republican policies.

“Would End the Filibuster, ‘Life’, 2A, and would Pack and Rotate the Court. Presidency becomes even more important,” he wrote. “We will win!”

The Electoral College is close. The popular vote isn’t

As the presidential race inches agonisingly toward a conclusion, it might be easy to miss the fact that the results are not actually very close.

With many ballots still outstanding in heavily Democratic cities, Biden was leading Trump by more than 4 million votes nationwide as of Friday morning. His lead is expected to continue to expand, perhaps substantially, as officials finish counting.

This means more Americans have voted for a Democrat for president than for a Republican in each of the past four elections, and seven of the past eight, the exception being 2004 when President George W Bush beat John Kerry by about 3 million votes. But, depending on the outcome this year, only four or five times in those eight elections have Democrats gone on to occupy the White House.

It looks likely that Biden will secure an Electoral College win. But the comparatively narrow result, in contrast to the fairly decisive preference of the American public, has intensified some Americans’ anger at a system in which a minority of people can often claim a majority of power.

“We look at a map of so-called red and blue states and treat that map as land and not people,” said Carol Anderson, a professor of African American studies at Emory University who researches voter suppression.

“I’ve been thinking about how hard folks have to work to be able to vote, what it takes to overcome all of this that voter suppression has put in place and that someone could be ahead by 3 million votes — which is bigger than most cities and probably some states — and still we have what almost amounts to a nail-biter.”

Biden’s current vote margin is larger than the populations of more than 20 states, and more than the population of Los Angeles.

A similar disparity exists in the Senate, where the current Democratic minority was elected with more votes than the Republican majority and where, by 2040, based on population projections, about 70 percent of Americans will be represented by 30 percent of senators.

“It’s not that the states that are represented by the 30 percent are all red, but what we do know is that the states that are going to have 70 senators are in no way representative of the diversity in the country,” said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

“The more this happens, the more you get the sense that voters don’t have a say in the choice of their leaders,” he said. “And you cannot have a democracy over a period of time that survives if a majority of people believe that their franchise is meaningless.”

The New York Times c.2020 The New York Times Company

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