With Lead in Pennsylvania and Georgia, Biden Edges Closer to Victory
The Democratic nominee could win as many electoral votes as Trump did four years ago.
This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP’s round-the-clock coverage of the U.S. election results as they come in, with short dispatches from correspondents and analysts around the world. The America Votes page is free for all readers.
With the vote counting in five key swing states around the country entering its final stage, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden appears to be in a strong position to win the presidency—though it could be a day or more until a final call is made.
Biden pulled ahead on Friday in Pennsylvania, where a victory would vault him over the 270 electoral vote threshold needed to win the White House. He also has a narrow lead in Georgia, a state no Democratic presidential candidate has won in nearly 30 years, though state election officials said Friday that the race would go to a recount.
If Biden’s leads hold up in the four hotly contested states where he has a slight edge—including Arizona and Nevada—as votes continue to be counted, he could ultimately rack up 306 electoral votes, and a nationwide advantage of more than 4 million votes. But more than 100,000 provisional ballots in Pennsylvania that appeared to be breaking toward President Donald Trump—leaving him a small chance of victory there—have prevented news outlets from calling the race.
Trump, after a caustic speech on Thursday night in which he falsely accused Democrats of committing massive voter fraud with mail-in ballots to steal the election, was roundly condemned by members of Congress—even some from his own party—for undermining the sanctity of the elections.
Trump’s campaign issued a defiant statement on Friday morning insisting there was still a path to reelection. “This election is not over. The false projection of Joe Biden as the winner is based on results in four states that are far from final,” said Matt Morgan, the Trump campaign’s general counsel. He cited allegations of ballots being improperly harvested in the remaining swing states, but he did not provide evidence for these claims. “[O]nce the election is final, President Trump will be re-elected,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly declined to say whether he would peacefully transfer power if defeated. But the Biden campaign said there was no way Trump could cling to power once the results were certified. “[T]he United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House,” campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said on Friday.
Since election night on Tuesday, Trump has repeatedly called for election officials to stop counting ballots, but legal challenges in several swing states appear to have fallen flat. Some are still ongoing. Trump’s closest allies predicted he’ll continue to reject the outcome of the race—even if the major news networks call the election for Biden. NBC’s Hallie Jackson reported on Friday that Trump was in a “fighting mood” and would take that fight all the way to the Supreme Court, though it’s unclear if he will have any legal basis for a case to be heard by the high court.
Trump’s unwillingness to concede will make the transition to Inauguration Day in January exceedingly challenging. He reportedly wants to move ahead with firing top administration officials including FBI Director Christopher Wray, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, and CIA Director Gina Haspel, who are not seen as sufficiently loyal to the president. Esper, whose relationship with Trump has chilled in recent months, has reportedly already drafted his resignation letter in anticipation of being asked to leave the Pentagon. Trump could also issue a flurry of executive orders to try to cement his legacy—though those could be overturned by a Biden administration.
Biden trailed in Pennsylvania in most early returns after Tuesday, but his advantage in the state became apparent when mail-in ballots from Philadelphia and other urban areas were finally counted. Pennsylvania had not held mail-in voting at this scale prior to the coronavirus pandemic and was not legally allowed to begin counting the early votes until Election Day.
Even before the results were called, Biden and his vice presidential running mate Kamala Harris already began to move toward a presidential transition, taking briefings on Thursday, starting a transition website, and getting a “national defense airspace” put over Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, to restrict flights.
Jack Detsch is Foreign Policy’s Pentagon and national security reporter. Twitter: @JackDetsch