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The race between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden was still too close to call Wednesday afternoon, with the path to the presidency coming down to just a handful of Rust Belt and Southern states, some of which could take days to finish counting their ballots.
As of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Biden maintained a narrow lead in the Electoral College, with 248 electoral votes to Trump’s 214. It takes 270 electoral votes to win.
The key states that are too close to call are Michigan and Pennsylvania – two of the so-called “Blue Wall” states that Trump flipped in 2016 – as well as Georgia, North Carolina, and Nevada. Trump leads narrowly in the outstanding contests in the South, but Biden took a slight lead overnight in Wisconsin and Michigan, and the AP has since called Wisconsin for the former vice president. Trump leads in Pennsylvania, but much of the vote is still being counted.
Some of those states could take days to finish tallying their votes because of state laws that prevented them from getting a head start on counting ballots and because of court decisions that extended deadlines to accept mail-in ballots.
Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by law were not allowed to begin to process or count absentee ballots until Election Day. Michigan was only able to start processing mail-in ballots Monday.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 campaign was conducted largely online and the election has seen a surge in mail-in votes. Last week the Supreme Court allowed Pennsylvania and North Carolina to continue accepting absentee ballots for several days after Election Day, further complicating the ballot tallying.
Trump’s campaign has called foul and threatened legal actions to stop Pennsylvania election officials from counting late-arriving ballots. Both Trump and Democrat Biden have enlisted high-powered legal teams in case of a drawn-out election battle in the courts, which looks increasingly likely.
“We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election,” Trump tweeted just before 1 a.m. “We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”
Just before 2:30 a.m., Trump predicted victory in remarks from the White House, saying: “We will win this and as far as I’m concerned, we already have won it.”
He briefly ran through vote tallies in the undecided states where he is ahead – North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia – and said Biden “can’t catch us.”
“It’s not like we’re up by 12 votes and we have 60% left,” he said.
Biden and his allies are trying to steal the election and “disenfranchise voters,” Trump said.
“This is a fraud on the American people,” he said. “This is an embarrassment to our country.”
Biden made an appearance just before 1 a.m., telling his supporters he remains optimistic that he will win, and thanking them for their patience.
“We believe we’re on track to win this election,” Biden said, telling supporters he was confident he would win in Arizona and eventually in Pennsylvania. “It ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted.”
The AP called Arizona for Biden just before 3 a.m. EST. It’s the only state so far Biden has flipped from 2016. He is just the second Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1948.
Other than Arizona, the 2020 electoral map is looking strikingly similar to the 2016 map.
Once again Trump appears to have outperformed the polls, where he was behind in many battleground states for months.
Florida in particular was a big win for Trump, as he had very few paths to victory without it. The biggest movement out of Florida came from Miami-Dade County, a heavily Democratic region, where Trump made up significant ground in four years.
Trump won 529,716 votes in Miami-Dade this year, up from 333,999 in 2016. Biden underperformed Hillary Clinton in Miami-Dade, winning 613,086 votes, down from Clinton’s 624,126. Clinton won 63% of the Miami-Dade County’s vote, while Biden won only 53% — largely due to the state’s Latino voters increasingly aligning with Trump.
The AP still hasn’t called Georgia or North Carolina, where Trump is currently leading.
Trump has run strong, as expected, in the South, the Midwest and in parts of the Upper Midwest. He won dogfights in Ohio and Iowa, which he won handily in 2016, but where polls were tight leading up to Election Day.
Biden has held the states that Hillary Clinton won in New England, along the Eastern Seaboard and on the West Coast, including California, Oregon and Washington.
Winning Texas turned out to be a pipe dream for Biden.
Trump failed in his effort to flip Minnesota, the state with the longest-running record of voting for Democrats for president.
Heading into Election Day, the polling clearly favored Biden. The RealClearPolitics polling average showed the former vice president with a comfortable lead nationally, though it also showed a much narrower Biden lead in top battleground states. It also showed the polls tightening.
FiveThirtyEight, a website run by polling analyst Nate Silver, heavily favored a Biden win, giving Trump only a 1-in-10 chance of holding the presidency. Trump needed a bigger-than-normal polling error in his favor to win, “but the real possibility that polls are underestimating Trump’s support is why he still has a path to win reelection,” the FiveThirtyEight analysis said.
Trump’s base was clearly energized, as his rallies over the past couple of days in Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina showed. Trump supporters in Wisconsin waited in line for hours Monday to hear the president speak at a regional airport in Kenosha.