With the winner of the presidency yet to be declared, attention shifted Thursday to a handful of states that remained too close to call but where, on balance, Joe Biden seemed to have an advantage, and the candidates pressed their cases on the state of the race.
“Democracy is sometimes messy,” Biden told reporters Thursday in Wilmington, Delaware, where he called for every ballot to be counted. “It sometimes requires a little patience as well.”
President Donald Trump called a news conference at the White House, where he made false and baseless claims about “illegal” votes, secret counts and how forces were working to “steal” the election from him.
“It’s amazing how those mail-in ballots are so one-sided,” he said at one point. ABC, CBS and NBC all cut away as his false statements mounted.
In several states, Trump’s campaign pressed ahead with lawsuits challenging the validity of the count, and protests erupted in cities and outside some elections offices.
With Biden leading Trump in the popular vote by more than 4 million votes — which, if it holds, will make this the second election where Trump lost the popular vote — the attention of both campaigns was riveted on the handful of undecided states that will decide which candidate gets the electoral votes needed to win.
Biden was 17 electoral votes shy of reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, while Trump was 56 electoral votes away from the threshold. As results trickled in from the remaining undecided states Biden increased his lead in Nevada by about 4,000 votes and was eroding Trump’s leads in Georgia and Pennsylvania, while holding on to his modest lead in Arizona.
Both campaigns tried to project optimism, and asked for patience.
Trump’s campaign team said that it would likely be filing additional legal actions. Bill Stepien, the campaign manager, accused people of prematurely writing Trump off at various junctures since the 2016 presidential primaries.
“Donald Trump is alive and well,” he said, hours before the president made his first public appearance since early Wednesday morning.
In most of his public comments since the election, Biden has stopped short of declaring victory, as Trump did prematurely on election night, and has sought to strike a conciliatory note as he addressed the nation. But he also had something of a warning for the Trump team.
“Power can’t be taken or asserted,” he said Wednesday. “It flows from the people. And it’s their will that determines who will be the president of the United States, and their will alone.”
Trump issued a written statement Thursday afternoon through his campaign in which he made baseless claims that there could be fraud in the late votes and then repeated many of them at his news conference. The statement, which was written in all capital letters, resembled one of his tweets — but by issuing it through the campaign, the president avoided getting a warning label from Twitter, which has flagged many of his recent tweets as potentially misleading.
With Trump’s political path growing more precarious, his team increasingly turned to the courts, filing lawsuits in several states and demanding a recount in Wisconsin. But judges in Georgia and Michigan ruled against his campaign, while it notched a modest win in a Pennsylvania case.
The Trump campaign’s bid to stave off defeat stretched to the Supreme Court, where it intervened in a case challenging Pennsylvania’s plan to count ballots received for up to three days after Election Day.
In a fraught moment for supporters of both candidates, the tensions occasionally started to spill into the streets.
Calling on election officials to “count every vote,” protesters marched through the streets of several American cities Wednesday, with protests in Minneapolis, Seattle, Phoenix, Philadelphia, New York City and Portland, Oregon.
At the same time, supporters of Trump descended on vote-counting facilities in several contested states. In Phoenix, about 150 pro-Trump protesters, some of them armed, gathered outside the county recorder’s office where a closely watched count of votes that could help determine the outcome of the election was being conducted.
And in Detroit, another group of pro-Trump poll watchers gathered earlier in the day outside a ballot-counting center, demanding that officials “stop the count” of ballots after the Trump campaign filed suit to halt the count in Michigan.
But inside, the democratic process continued to play out as election workers — socially distanced and wearing masks — went about their job: counting the votes.