Joe Biden said he was “going to win” the US presidential election as he expanded his lead in Pennsylvania and held an advantage in several other battleground states, putting him within touching distance of capturing the White House.
The former vice-president addressed the nation late on Friday night as the official vote tally showed him with significant leads in Pennsylvania, Arizona and Nevada, although he stopped short of declaring victory in the absence of the race being officially called.
“My fellow Americans, we don’t have a final declaration of victory yet, but the numbers tell a clear and convincing story,” Mr Biden said at the end of a day during which he overtook President Donald Trump in both Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Mr Biden had hoped to give a victory speech on Friday night and his campaign spent part of the day preparing a stage for a rally in Wilmington, Delaware, but he was forced to abandon those plans due to a protracted vote count that showed him slowly inching towards victory.
Over the course of the day, Mr Biden boosted his lead in Pennsylvania to 28,833 votes with 96 per cent of the vote counted. A victory in the state would propel him past the 270 electoral college votes he needs to win the White House, and most experts expect him to win because the majority of the uncounted ballots are from areas that lean Democratic.
Mr Biden said he was “especially proud” that he was the first Democrat on course to win Arizona and Georgia since 1996 and 1992, respectively. He is ahead in both battlegrounds, although officials in Georgia say his lead of just 7,248 votes means the state is headed for a recount. He leads in Nevada by 22,657, while his advantage in Arizona slipped to 20,573 after an update on Saturday morning.
“We rebuilt the ‘blue wall’ in the middle of the country that crumbled just four years ago,” Mr Biden added, in a reference to his victories in Wisconsin and Michigan, and his expected win in Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton lost those states to Mr Trump in 2016.
Mr Biden said Americans had given him a “mandate for action” on everything from the coronavirus pandemic and the economy to climate change and racism. “They made it clear they want the country to come together — not pull apart.”
Pollsters had predicted that Mr Biden would cruise to a landslide victory and that the Democrats would win control of the Senate, but he and his party look set to fall short of those projections.
“We don’t have any more time to waste on partisan warfare,” Mr Biden said, underscoring the degree to which he will have to work with Republicans if he is to achieve his aims.
Before the former vice-president spoke, Mr Trump had warned his opponent not to declare victory.
“Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!” Mr Trump tweeted, days after he declared he had won.
Mr Biden, a 77-year-old son of working-class Scranton, Pennsylvania, was set to become the oldest candidate elected to the presidency. Having served for nearly four decades in the US Senate and eight years as Barack Obama’s vice-president, Mr Biden ran on a promise to unify the nation.
If he wins, his running mate, Kamala Harris, would be the first African-American woman and first person of Indian descent to be vice-president.
Mr Biden was also leading in Nevada, which has yet to be declared, and Arizona, which has been called for Mr Biden by several media organisations, including the Financial Times.
Mr Trump, who complained on Thursday that the election was being “stolen”, was facing the prospect of becoming the first president to lose his bid for re-election since 1992.
With ballots still being counted across the country, Mr Biden had received more votes than any presidential candidate in history — more than 74m, or 4m more than Mr Trump, who increased his vote compared with 2016.
Mr Trump has made clear he will not concede without a legal fight even if Mr Biden has secured more than 270 electoral college votes. Speaking from the White House podium on Thursday in his first public appearance since election day, Mr Trump said: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win.”
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Without presenting any evidence of misconduct, the president added: “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us, if you count the votes that came in late.” Only a handful of Republicans, such as the ardent loyalist senator Lindsey Graham, have echoed Mr Trump’s claims.
Mr Trump appeared to concede that he was on track to lose in Georgia and Pennsylvania, insisting the election day tally — which did not include most mail-in ballots — should be viewed as definitive. “I won Pennsylvania by a lot, and that gets whittled down,” he said.
Mr Trump took a strong early lead in Georgia as votes were counted from conservative parts of the state, but Mr Biden caught up as mail-in votes from the heavily African-American suburbs of Atlanta area were counted.
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— to www.ft.com