Donald Trump and Joe Biden have both claimed to be surging ahead in the election but many swing states are still to be announced. Making his first appearance of the night, Biden insisted he is ‘on track to win’, sparking an immediate response from Trump who said ‘we are up BIG’ along with an unfounded claim that the Democrats are trying to ‘steal the election’.
Speaking on stage, Biden said he is still in the race to win Georgia after he picked up the first two battleground states of the night, Minnesota and New Hampshire.
But Trump has been buoyed by early results that show he is outperforming many election predictions, winning the prized battleground state of Florida, and further wins in Kansas, North Dakota and other conservative bastions.
Biden won California, the nation’s biggest electoral haul, and other predictable victories including Colorado and Virginia, two former battlegrounds that have become Democratic strongholds.
It remains too early to call in the most fiercely contested and critical states on the map, including North Carolina and Pennsylvania – which may become the showdown state in the race for 270 electoral college votes.
Millions of voters put aside worries about the virus, and some long queues, to turn out in person, joining 102 million fellow Americans who voted days or weeks earlier, a record number that represented 73% of the total vote in the 2016 presidential election.
Early results in several key battleground states were in flux as election officials processed a historically large number of postal votes.
Democrats typically outperform Republicans in postal voting, while the Republicans look to make up ground in polling day turnout.
That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes – early or polling day – were being reported by the states.
Biden entered polling day with multiple paths to victory, while Trump, playing catch-up in a number of battleground states, had a narrower but still feasible road to clinch 270 electoral college votes.
Control of the Senate is also at stake. Democrats needed to net three seats if Biden captured the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky won re-election in an early victory for the Republicans, and Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a close ally of Mr Trump’s, fought off a fierce challenge to hang onto his seat.
The parties traded a pair of seats in other early results. Democratic former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper defeated incumbent senator Cory Gardner, and in Alabama Republican Tommy Tuberville beat senator Doug Jones.
The House of Representatives is expected to remain under Democratic control.
As the results began to come in, the nation braced for what is to come – and an outcome that might not be known for days.
A new anti-scaling fence has been erected around the White House, and in cities from New York to Denver to Minneapolis, workers boarded up businesses amid concerns of unrest.
With the worst public health crisis in a century still fiercely present, the pandemic – and Trump’s handling of it – was the inescapable focus for 2020.
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