Early results close for Biden and Trump in key battleground states
Donald Trump and Joe Biden were locked in a nail-biting challenge for the White House after early results from the presidential election showed a tight race in a number of key battleground states.
Mr Biden was projected to win the first swing state of the night with New Hampshire, in a relatively minor victory in a state that the Republicans had hoped to steal from the Democrats.
But Florida, a fiercely contested state deemed essential for Mr Trump to remain in the White House, was leaning the incumbent’s way with nearly all of the votes counted. It, however, remained too close to call.
The race was also tight in the swing states of Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
There were no upsets in safe states with both men winning predictable victories after a divisive presidential election overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican took states including Mississippi, Oklahoma and Alabama, while Mr Biden won in his home state of Delaware, Illinois and Massachusetts, as well as predictably winning the heavily populated California and New York.
But projections in the Midwest and the Rust Belt, including Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and the key bellwether state of Ohio put them as having the potential to go either way.
Partial results, however, gave the Democratic challenger a lead in Arizona, which would be a major coup in a state that was once reliably Republican.
Mr Trump earlier said he believes he has a “very solid chance at winning”, while his Democratic challenger cautiously said he remains “hopeful”.
Mr Biden, a former vice president, has painted the election as the “battle for the soul” of the nation, saying democracy itself is at stake. Meanwhile, Mr Trump has reprised his “Make America Great Again” mantra.
Economic fairness and racial justice have been key issues in the election race. Both men have also clashed over the Covid-19 response as the nation reels from more than 230,000 coronavirus deaths and millions of job losses.
Mr Trump has sought to downplay the pandemic’s effect, saying the nation is “rounding the corner”. But his opponent has accused the president of having surrendered to the disease.
Steady lines of voters flocked to the polls on Tuesday after around 100 million Americans voted early, setting the nation on course for a record turnout figure.
A noticeably hoarse Mr Trump spoke to Fox News by phone to speak up his “very solid” odds, predicting he could win with a larger margin in electoral college votes than in 2016 against Hillary Clinton.
I’m superstitious about predicting what an outcome’s gonna be until it happens ... but I’m hopeful
But, during a later visit to campaign headquarters, he spoke more gravely saying “winning is easy” but “losing is never easy, not for me it’s not”.
Mr Biden, after a last pitch in the crucial state of Pennsylvania, struck a cautious tone, saying that “it’s just so uncertain”.
“I’m superstitious about predicting what an outcome’s gonna be until it happens … but I’m hopeful,” he added.
National polls have consistently put Mr Biden ahead, but the race was predicted to be closer in the battleground states.
Nigel Farage, the Brexit Party leader who has joined Mr Trump on the campaign trail, told the PA news agency high turnout could be bad news for his ally.
He said: “Obviously, it’s tough to judge. We’re dealing with a huge turnout, unprecedented in modern times. I have memories of the UK referendum, we had a huge turnout and Brexit won.”
Anticipation was building in downtown Washington DC as nervous voters wait for the national picture to become clearer.
As temperatures dropped, protesters gathered on Black Lives Matter Plaza Northwest near the White House. They were mainly peaceful but, at one point, some squared off with officers with at least two men being detained.
Chants of “f*** the police” and “no justice, no peace” broke out while demonstrators called on police to release the men.
While the vast majority of the crowd of thousands was made up of Biden supporters, the few Trump fans walked freely while wearing “Make America Great Again” caps.
Bernadette Eichbelberger, a 68-year-old retired health care worker, admitted the wait for results had frayed her nerves.
She said she has spent much of the last week phoning potential voters for Mr Biden and is fearful of what another victory for Mr Trump will mean for the country.
“I’ve been worried for the last year,” she told the PA news agency. “I’ve been sick for the last four years of what he’s done to this country. It would only get worse, we will become a fascist country if he gets elected.”
Each state gets a number of electoral college votes roughly in line with its population and they largely hand them all to the winner in that state. With 538 up for grabs across the States, 270 is the key number to win the presidency.
But the election night itself looked unlikely to reveal the definite answer many want with results as close as they were.
Mr Trump had already jeopardised the likelihood of a simple race by refusing to commit to a peaceful transition of power and having warned of a “rigged election”.
Along with his attacks, which have largely centred on unfounded claims over postal voting, he has threatened to challenge the result in the courts if it is not in his favour.
The president has invited hundreds of supporters to an election party inside the White House. Mr Biden will await the results in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.