(Bloomberg) — Joe Biden won Michigan and Wisconsin Wednesday, putting him on the brink of taking the White House from President Donald Trump, hours after the president’s team opened legal fights to stop vote counting in at least two states.
Both CNN and NBC projected Biden would win Michigan, which Trump took in 2016, giving him 264 Electoral College votes out of the 270 needed to win the presidency. Trump has 214.
Biden needs only to win an additional outstanding state, such as Nevada where he is leading, or Georgia, where his campaign believes absentee votes will push him over the top.
Biden said he expects to prevail. “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,” he told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware.
His remarks came after he scored a win over Trump in Wisconsin, closing off one of the president’s best routes to re-election.
Trump’s campaign said it is suing in Pennsylvania and Michigan to halt vote counts that have been trending toward Biden.
Trump falsely declared victory in Pennsylvania, one of the six states that has yet to be called by the Associated Press. The president was ahead in the state by 383,000 votes but Pennsylvania officials said more than a million ballots still have to be counted.
Trump faces a more difficult path to victory. Trump would have to win all the battleground states that have not yet been called.
Biden’s Wisconsin and Michigan victories reverse Trump’s upsets in 2016 when he defeated Hillary Clinton.
Trump’s campaign said it would demand a recount in Wisconsin, where the candidates were less than 1 percentage point apart.
Biden’s campaign said it expects to be able to declare overall victory Wednesday afternoon, sooner than many expected.
Election officials continued to count votes in several battleground states as Democrats, whose expectations for a “blue wave” were dashed.
Trump tweeted throughout the day casting doubt on the count of mail-in ballots, which were heavily Democratic, after the Election Day in-person votes were counted, which leaned Republican.
“How come every time they count Mail-In ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction,” the president said on Twitter. Another tweet mused about his leads “magically” disappearing in states run by Democratic governors.
Bill Stepien, Trump’s campaign manager, insisted the president was headed for re-election and that the campaign was readying its lawyers to challenge results in some states.
In a middle-of-the-night speech from the White House, Trump threatened to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene to stop what he called the disenfranchisement of Republican voters, without offering evidence that any wrongdoing had occurred.
“Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said, noting that he held a lead in a number of states where results were still uncertain. “So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what Trump meant, as states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina and Nevada were counting legally cast votes. It is routine for states to continue counting votes after Election Day, and Pennsylvania said results likely wouldn’t be finalized for several days.
U.S. stocks held onto their gains after the news, led by technology shares, on speculation that a split Congress would ensure the extension of key elements of the bull market, such as Trump’s 2017 corporate tax cuts. Treasuries also rallied.
The unresolved outcome — due to an unusually large number of mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus — risks stoking tensions further in the U.S., beset by an economic downturn and the raging virus.
But the Biden campaign was optimistic of the outcome and slammed Trump’s efforts to halt vote counting.
“When all of the votes are tallied, we are confident that Vice President Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States,” said Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon.
O’Malley Dillon said in a statement early Wednesday that Trump’s remarks were “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect” and “a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.”
In Nevada, where tallying was halted until Thursday, Biden was clinging to a lead of almost 8,000 votes. In the nationwide popular vote, Biden leads by roughly 2 million.
There were few surprises among states where the Associated Press announced winners, with Republican and Democratic states generally falling in line, despite expectations for several upsets.
Trump won Florida, a crucial prize in the race to the White House that closed off Biden’s hopes for an early knockout in the election. The president also won Texas, which Democrats had hoped might flip and entirely reshape the electoral map.
Trump won Ohio and Biden won Minnesota, states that each candidate had sought to take from the other but wound up politically unchanged from 2016.
Trump still holds small leads in North Carolina and Georgia, though there are votes outstanding in each. Trump won both states in 2016. But Trump’s lead in Georgia was narrowing Wednesday evening.
In addition to Wisconsin, Biden won Nebraska’s second congressional district, Minnesota, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, New York, Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Delaware, District of Columbia and New Hampshire, according to the AP.
Trump won Nebraska’s other four Electoral College votes, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri.
Nebraska is one of only two states, with Maine, that award an Electoral College vote to the winner of each congressional district. Trump won two districts and Biden won one. Trump won the state overall, giving him Nebraska’s two remaining Electoral College votes.
Trump won Maine’s second congressional district and Biden won the first, plus the state’s two at-large electoral votes.
Even if Democrats yet claim the White House, a wave of support they hoped would also give them control of both chambers of Congress may fall short.
Democrats would need to win three of the five Senate seats still undecided to leave the Senate with a 50-50 split, which would leave the party in the White House in control.
Biden’s lead appears to be thanks to holding onto Latino and African-American voters in numbers similar to what Clinton had four years ago. And he narrowed Trump’s margin among White voters, voter surveys from the AP show.
Trump had a 12-point lead among White voters in Tuesday’s election. Network exit polls four years ago showed him with a 20-point advantage among those voters. Biden led among Latino voters 30 points, Black voters by 82 points, and women by 12 points.
(Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, provided $100 million in support of Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris in Florida, half of that from his Independence USA PAC.)
(Updates with count in Georgia in 28th paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the ninth paragraph to remove language about the first Republican wins in Michigan and Wisconsin.)
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