U.S. President Donald Trump has taken the lead over Democratic rival Joe Biden in the vital battleground of Florida and other U.S. swing states after Tuesday’s voting, but Biden has pinned his White House hopes on Arizona and a “blue wall” of three Rust Belt states that could take days to count their votes.
Biden’s hopes for a decisive early defeat of Trump faded as the president took solid leads in Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Texas. Fox News projected Trump would win Florida, a must-win state in his quest for 270 Electoral College votes.
Biden, 77, was eyeing the so-called “blue wall” states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that sent Trump, 74, to the White House in 2016 for possible breakthroughs, although vote counting could stretch for hours or days there.
Trump held early leads in those three states, but much of that was built on Republican-heavy Election Day voting. The counting of Democratic-heavy mail-in ballots in all three states was expected to take hours or days. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and much of Michigan, mail-in ballots were not processed until Election Day.
Winning those three states would be enough to give Biden an Electoral College victory. Fox News projected Biden would win Arizona, another state that voted for Trump in 2016, giving him more options to get to 270 Electoral College votes.
Even without Pennsylvania, Biden wins in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as a congressional district in either Maine or Nebraska, which apportion their electoral votes by district, would put him in the White House, as long as he also holds onto the states that Trump lost in 2016.
Supporters of both candidates called the election a referendum on Trump and his tumultuous first term. The winner will lead a nation strained by a pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 people and left millions more jobless, with racial tensions and political polarization that has only worsened during a vitriolic campaign.
Trump monitored election returns with members of his family in the living room of the White House residence. Going in and out of the room were first lady Melania Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka, among others. “He’s calm, chilling,” said a source familiar with the scene.
A senior Trump aide, watching returns at the White House, described the mood there in a text: “Good. But nervous”
In the East Room of the White House, where 200 Trump supporters were having drinks and eating chicken fingers, sliders and cookies, cheers broke out when Fox News called Florida for Trump, said a source in the room.
“The place just erupted,” said the source, who said the mood was both “extraordinarily positive” and “cautiously optimistic.” “Everyone started cheering.”
Voters were also to decide which political party controls the U.S. Congress for the next two years, with Democrats narrowly favored to recapture a Senate majority and retain control of the House of Representatives.