Biden, flipping Michigan and Wisconsin, says it’s ‘clear’ he will reach 270

The New York Times
WASHINGTON Updated: Nov 05, 2020, 05:54 PM(IST)

Joe Biden Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The Trump campaign, whose path to victory was narrowing, said that it would seek a recount in Wisconsin and that it had filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the vote count in Michigan, moves that could further delay the moment when a victor can be declared.

The undecided presidential election entered a new phase on Wednesday as former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner of the key swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin, two states that President Donald Trump won four years ago.

The Trump campaign, whose path to victory was narrowing, said that it would seek a recount in Wisconsin and that it had filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the vote count in Michigan, moves that could further delay the moment when a victor can be declared.

The Trump campaign’s challenges came as Trump found himself with few paths remaining to win the 270 electoral votes needed to win reelection. By Wednesday afternoon, Biden was holding slim leads in several key states that, if they hold, could propel him to the critical Electoral College threshold and the presidency.

The lingering uncertainty of the 2020 campaign was perhaps unsurprising in an election with record-breaking turnout where most ballots were cast before Election Day but many could not be counted until afterwards.

Trump’s chances of winning a second term depended on his ability to hang onto his leads in states like Georgia and in Pennsylvania, where Biden has been narrowing Trump’s leads as vote counting progresses, and on overtaking Biden in one of the states where Biden is currently ahead.

With millions of votes yet to be counted across several key states — there is a reason that news organizations and other usually impatient actors were waiting to declare victors — Biden was holding narrow leads in Arizona and Nevada. If Biden can hold those states, the former vice president could win the election even without Pennsylvania, which has long been viewed as a must-have battleground state.

“We feel good about where we are,” Biden told rattled supporters early Wednesday morning. “I’m here to tell you tonight we believe we’re on track to win this election. I’m optimistic about this outcome.”

Even before the Wisconsin race was called, the Trump campaign said that would request a recount. Under Wisconsin law, a recount can be requested if the margin between the top two candidates is less than 1%.

Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, said in a statement that “the President is well within the threshold to request a recount and we will immediately do so.”

And Stepien claimed that the Trump campaign had not been given “meaningful access” to several counting locations in Michigan and that it had a filed suit in the Michigan Court of Claims to halt counting until access was granted. Shortly after that, he announced that the campaign would intervene in Pennsylvania.

One source of Biden’s resilience lies in the nature of the votes still to be counted. Many are mail-in ballots, which favour him because the Democratic Party spent months promoting the message of submitting votes in advance, while Trump encouraged his voters to turn out on Election Day. And in Michigan and Pennsylvania, many of the uncounted votes are from populous urban and suburban areas that tend to vote heavily for Democrats.

Even in Pennsylvania, where Trump had run up a daunting lead of roughly 8 percentage points as of Wednesday afternoon, Biden had a plausible shot of catching up. Pennsylvania’s secretary of state said there were more than 1.4 million mail-in ballots still to be counted, and those votes are expected to heavily favour Biden.

Trump held leads in North Carolina and Georgia, and his campaign expressed hopes that his early Pennsylvania lead could withstand an influx of mail-in ballots for Biden. Then, if Trump was able to retake the lead from Biden in Arizona or Nevada, which has gone Democratic in recent elections, he would have a path to a second term.

Early Wednesday, Trump prematurely declared victory and said he would petition the Supreme Court to demand a halt to the counting. Biden urged his supporters — and by implication, Trump — to show patience and allow the process to play out.

— MICHAEL COOPER and MARK LANDLER

Biden says in Delaware that it’s ‘clear’ he will reach 270 electoral votes.

WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden on Wednesday said it was “clear” that he would reach 270 electoral votes and win the presidency, though he stopped short of claiming victory.

“I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners,” Biden said in a speech at an event centre in Wilmington.

After President Donald Trump said in the early morning hours that vote counting should be halted, Biden offered a strikingly different message, paying tribute to democracy.

“Here, the people rule,” he said. “Power can’t be taken or asserted. 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.”

Biden added that “every vote must be counted.”

“No one’s going to take our democracy away from us,” he said. “Not now, not ever.”

And in a continuation of one of the broad themes of his campaign, Biden offered a unifying message for the American people.

He said that the presidency “is not a partisan institution” and promised, “I will work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as I will for those who did vote for me.”

"My friends, I’m confident we’ll emerge victoriously,” Biden said. “But this will not be my victory alone or our victory alone. It will be a victory for the American people, for our democracy, for America. And there will be no blue states and red states when we win — just the United States of America.”

—THOMAS KAPLAN

Biden’s victory in Michigan is another significant victory in the upper Midwest

Joe Biden on Wednesday afternoon won Michigan, according to The Associated Press, a state in which his campaign invested heavily to secure a straightforward path to victory.

With about 97% of the vote counted, Biden was leading Trump by 49.8% to 48.6%.

Even before the Michigan race was called on Wednesday, the Trump campaign had announced that it was suing to halt the counting of mail-in ballots in the state because of what it called insufficient transparency in the process.

“President Trump’s campaign has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law,” said Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager.

The victories in Michigan and Wisconsin for Biden further improved his prospects of reaching exactly 270 electoral votes and eking out a victory over Trump. But Biden would still need to nail down victories in Arizona and Nevada, where he is leading but where plenty of votes are yet to be counted. If he wins those two states, Biden does not need Pennsylvania, where he is trailing.

Michigan had been reliably blue in choosing a president for nearly 25 years, until 2016, when Trump won the state by the smallest margin in the country — 10,704 votes. But Biden saw consistent leads in virtually all major polls leading up to Election Day.

The Biden campaign viewed the working and middle-class moderate voters of the Midwest as Biden’s natural base, and it tried to build a coalition that was made up of more white voters than the base that elected former President Barack Obama and that Hillary Clinton tried to retain in 2016.

Four years ago, Michigan provided one of Trump’s most surprising victories and helped him take back the Northern industrial states that had favored Democrats in presidential elections since the 1990s. In this election, Trump’s popularity took a serious hit with the coalition of white voters — independents, those who had an unfavorable view of him but supported him anyway, people with and without college educations — that helped secure his win in Michigan in 2016.

A surge in new coronavirus cases and the rise of right-wing violence after a plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, left Michigan voters rattled in recent weeks as they went to the polls. There have been at least 207,830 cases and 7,758 deaths in Michigan since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a New York Times database.

— Lauren Katzenberg

Biden team says he is ‘on track to win,’ as Trump campaign predicts wins in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

The Biden and Trump campaigns offered dueling visions of the election’s aftermath early Wednesday, with the former vice president’s team projecting confidence about a victory that seemed within grasp — and Donald Trump’s team suggesting it will outperform expectations one final time once all “legal ballots” are counted.

“Joe Biden is on track to win this election, and he will be the next president of the United States,” said Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, said during a briefing with reporters Wednesday morning, even as the two candidates remain deadlocked in the low 200s in terms of their electoral vote counts.

O’Malley Dillon said Biden was expected to address the country later in the day but did not disclose what he planned to say.

She said campaign officials believed they had “already won” Wisconsin and that they expected to take Nevada, Michigan and Pennsylvania. She acknowledged that North Carolina was “really tight” and leaned toward President Donald Trump but said the outcome may not be determined for several days.

She also said the campaign was closely watching Georgia.

“We think that this is already a foregone conclusion,” she said of the overall situation.

In a call with reporters, Trump’s team offered a different picture of the race — reliant, as it turned out, on the careful counting of ballots despite the president’s repeated attempts to discredit the process.

Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien said that the campaign intended on filing for a recount in Wisconsin. He also predicted that Arizona, which was leaning toward Biden with about 14% of the vote yet to be counted, would end up in the Trump column once all the votes were tallied.

Wisconsin law stipulates that a recount can be requested if the margin between the top two candidate is less than 1%. Whoever requests the recount would have to pay for it unless the margin is less than one-quarter of 1%. Biden’s current lead is under 1%.

“If we count all legal ballots, the president wins,” said Stepien, who predicted razor-thin victories in Nevada and Pennsylvania, his words suggesting that they anticipated challenging the legality of some outstanding ballots.

He took no questions and did not offer a definition for “legal ballots.”

Despite Stepien’s confident stance, officials privately conceded the Trump path to victory was looking narrow Wednesday and depended on keeping Arizona in play.

Trump, for his part, viewed the tallying of absentee and early ballots — which by early Wednesday had flipped Wisconsin and Michigan in favour of Biden — with disdain and has long sought to undermine the legitimacy of a process that has been in place for years and overseen by officials in both parties.

Bob Bauer, a former White House counsel to President Barack Obama who is helping to lead the Biden campaign’s election protection efforts, warned that Democrats were prepared to fight any legal challenge Republicans might press in states where Biden is narrowly ahead.

“Wherever they go and however they go about it, we have lawyers ready to go, papers ready to go, within an hour of hearing of any step that they take,” he told reporters Wednesday.

— KATIE GLUECK, THOMAS KAPLAN, ANNIE KARNI and GLENN THRUSH

Sen. Susan Collins of Maine Declares Victory

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, claimed victory Wednesday in her bid to secure a fifth term, beating back an avalanche of Democratic money and liberal anger in the most difficult race of her career to defeat Sara Gideon, a Democrat, and strengthen her party’s hold on the Senate.

The Associated Press called the race for Collins with an estimated 75% of the votes tabulated and Collins leading Gideon by more than 6 percentage points, 49.8% to 43.4%. Collins said she had received “a very gracious call” from Gideon conceding the race. And Gideon delivered a concession speech.

“Regardless of the result, we built a movement that will help us make progress for years to come,” Gideon said.

Collins’ victory dashed Democratic hopes of a crucial pickup as their ambitions of a Senate takeover hung by a thread.

If Biden wins the presidency, Democrats need to gain three seats to retake control of the Senate, which the Republicans have held since 2015. If Trump is reelected, Democrats need to gain four seats. So far, Democrats have flipped two seats and Republicans have flipped one, for a net gain to the Democrats of one seat. Three races for Republican-held seats in which Democrats were thought to have a chance have yet to be called, and Republicans held an edge in two of them.

The Collins-Gideon race was the most expensive in Maine history, with national donors flooding the state with tens of millions of dollars and an onslaught of negative campaign ads. The battle for control of the Senate appeared to be heading out of reach for Democrats.

Democrats early Wednesday won a crucial seat in Arizona, with Mark Kelly, a former astronaut, defeating Sen. Martha McSally, and former Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated Sen. Cory Gardner on Tuesday night in the high-profile fight for Colorado’s Senate seat. Those victories were essential to Democrats’ push to take the Senate majority.

In Georgia, the Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, a Democrat, advanced to a runoff election against Sen. Kelly Loeffler, the Republican incumbent. The other race in the state, between Jon Ossoff, the Democratic challenger, and Senator David Perdue, a Republican, was too close to call.

But Republicans across the country were successful in holding off well-funded challengers in a number of key races. In Montana, Sen. Steve Daines defeated Gov. Steve Bullock, and in Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst defeated Theresa Greenfield, a businesswoman who had styled herself as a “scrappy farm kid.” Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, hung onto his seat in South Carolina, fending off the toughest challenge of his political career from Jaime Harrison, a Black Democrat whose upstart campaign electrified progressives across the country and inspired a record-setting onslaught of campaign cash.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, also defeated a challenge from M.J. Hegar, a former Air Force pilot who Democrats hoped could have an outside chance of winning in the rapidly changing state. In Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, easily won reelection, defeating Amy McGrath, a Democrat who struggled to gain ground despite an outpouring of financial support from her party’s supporters around the nation. And Republicans succeeded in ousting Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., who came to power in a 2017 special election against Roy S. Moore, who was accused of sexually assaulting and pursuing teenage girls. Democrats were in danger of losing another seat in Michigan, where the Democratic incumbent, Gary Peters, was in a neck-and-neck race with his Republican challenger, John James.

And Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., claimed victory Wednesday afternoon over his Democratic challenger, Cal Cunningham, in a seat that strategists in both parties identified as a possible tipping point, but news organizations did not declare a victor and Cunningham did not concede.

— EMILY COCHRANE

The Trump Campaign Laid Out a Legal Strategy To Challenge Votes in the Key States

Republican lawyers and Trump campaign officials Wednesday laid out a wide-ranging legal strategy to challenge Democratic votes in key swing states, telegraphing a post-Election Day campaign to claim victory over Joe Biden with help from the courts.

But in press briefings and interviews, they grounded their legal arguments in a claim that they were merely seeking to ensure that no votes get to count that should not count, rather than repeating the president’s own early-morning claims that all counting should have stopped on Election Day, when early and incomplete results showed him ahead in some battleground states that will help decide the Electoral College winner.

“If we count all legal ballots, the president wins," the Trump campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said on a morning conference call with reporters.

The statement was in keeping with the campaign’s legal strategy to contest votes it alleges should not have been counted under state election laws, some of which it is already challenging.

Earlier in the morning, Trump had emerged from watching returns at the White House to say, “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop,” a crude rendering of his campaign’s legal position that was legally meaningless and that drew bipartisan criticism.

Early on Election Day, Trump campaign officials made no indication that they were pursuing a case that could land at the Supreme Court, though Democratic lawyers said they were expecting one.

But by Tuesday evening the campaigns were already meeting in court in Pennsylvania, where Republicans were pressing dual lawsuits to invalidate provisional and corrected ballots by Pennsylvanians who were informed before polls closed that problems with their mail-in votes had caused them to be rejected by election officials.

Trump campaign officials also said that they planned to request a recount in Wisconsin, where returns showed Trump trailing by less than 1% of the vote. And they indicated that they were also considering seeking one in Nevada, where the president was trailing by even less and was already pressing a lawsuit protesting the counting process in the state’s largest county.

Biden campaign officials said they had readied contingencies and legal papers for any challenges the president and his allies might bring. “We are prepared for any effort any Republicans make in any of these states," said Bob Bauer, a senior adviser to Biden’s campaign.

He cast the Biden campaign’s legal position as one of more defence than offence, referring to ever-changing tallies that, at that moment, showed Biden with leads in Wisconsin, Michigan and Arizona and that, if they held, would deliver Biden the White House.

“As far as our own planning, we’re winning the election," Bauer said.

The position marked a key difference from the last time the nation was in a similarly contested setting, in Florida in 2000. In that case, Al Gore, the Democrat, was behind in the returns and was portrayed by Republicans as seeking to snatch victory away from George W. Bush — a position that kept Gore at a disadvantage throughout the legal fighting that followed.

With counting incomplete and continuing across the country, the dynamic could shift at any minute. But as of early Wednesday afternoon, it was Trump’s campaign that was in the position of challenging a potentially losing result.

The Trump campaign indicated it was prepared for a lengthy war of legal attrition in a fundraising appeal it sent to supporters after polls had closed, asking for money to can “FIGHT BACK” against Democrats the campaign baselessly claimed were trying to “steal” the election.

— JIM RUTENBERG and ANNIE KARNI

Postal Service Has Completed a Court-Ordered Search for Possible Missing Ballots

The Postal Service said Wednesday morning that it had completed Election Day sweeps of 12 districts that were ordered by a federal judge who was concerned that some ballots might have slipped through the cracks.

“We did complete the sweeps last night,” Dave Partenheimer, a spokesperson for the Postal Service, said an email. He said the agency would provide more detail to the judge later Wednesday.

Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the District of Columbia has scheduled a noon hearing to discuss the status of the search for ballots in districts where the performance of on-time mail delivery had been lagging.

Sullivan had ordered an immediate sweep of certain districts Tuesday afternoon after the Postal Service said in court that some 300,000 ballots it had received had not been scanned for delivery. He said he was particularly concerned about ballot delivery in postal districts where there has been slow processing of ballots for days, including central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Detroit.

The dramatic Election Day order came as record numbers of Americans voted by mail this year, with many voters were anxious to avoid crowds at the polls during the pandemic — and at the end of a campaign season marked by fears that Postal Service changes and cutbacks under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a Trump appointee, had caused extensive mail delays that could imperil ballots.

Roughly 300,000 ballots that the Postal Service says it processed showed no scan confirming their delivery to ballot-counting sites, according to data filed recently in federal court in Washington, D.C., leaving voter-rights advocates concerned.

Postal officials said that just because a ballot never received a final scan before going out for delivery, it did not mean, necessarily, that it wasn’t delivered. A machine scanning ballots for final processing can sometimes miss ballots that are stuck together or whose bar codes are smudged. And hand-sorted ballots typically do not receive a final scan before delivery.

The Postal Service has also authorized expedited delivery of ballots that forego the normal process, but voting-rights advocates worried that without a scan verifying that the ballots went out for delivery, some could be sitting uncounted at various postal facilities around the country.

Partenheimer said the agency had been conducting daily searches at all of its facilities for ballots that might fall through the cracks.

— LUKE BROADWATER

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