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Biden closes in on 270 as Trump mounts legal challenges
Former Vice President Joe Biden was declared the winner in two key battleground states — Michigan and Wisconsin — by the Associated Press on Wednesday, narrowing President Donald Trump’s paths to re-election and placing Biden on the precipice of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House.
According to the AP, which has also called Arizona and Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district for the Democratic standard-bearer, Biden now stands at 264 electoral votes — six away from the threshold for victory.
In the four key states yet to be called, Trump currently leads in Pennsylvania (50.7% to 48.1%, with 89% of the expected vote in), Georgia (49.6% to 49.2%, with 98% of the expected vote in), and North Carolina (50.1% to 48.7%, with 94% of the expected vote in), while Biden has an edge in Nevada (49.3% to 48.7%, with 75% of the expected vote in).
However, Biden is quickly gaining on the president in Pennsylvania and Georgia as absentee ballots from urban areas are counted. As votes have been tallied in Fulton and DeKalb Counties (home to Atlanta and the surrounding suburbs), Trump’s lead in Georgia has been shaved to below 0.5%, the margin at which state law allows a candidate to request a recount. Georgia’s secretary of state is expected to offer an update on the vote-counting at 10:30 a.m. Eastern Time today.
The reverse is taking place in Arizona: although AP and Fox News have already projected that Biden will win the state, Trump is steadily eating into the former vice president’s advantage, which now stands at 50.5% to 48.1%, with 88% of the expected vote in. The president has picked up votes in Maricopa County (home to Phoenix), shrinking Biden’s lead there to just over 10,000 votes. Maricopa, the state’s largest county, is set to update its vote totals at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.
As long as Biden’s edge in Arizona remains firm, Nevada’s six electoral votes would be enough to place him at exactly 270 — without Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) or Georgia (16). Trump, on the other hand, needs to clinch both Pennsylvania and Georgia to keep the White House (although Biden is rising in both, with a recount likely in the latter). By virtue of the math alone, Biden has the upper hand. Both Pennsylvania and Georgia are expected to announce new vote totals this morning; the next update in Nevada will come at 12 p.m. Eastern Time.
In the hours after the president prematurely declared victory on Wednesday, the Trump campaign began launching legal challenges in several key states. Throughout the day, the campaign filed lawsuits to halt vote-counting in Michigan and Pennsylvania until Republican observers received more access; announced plans to request a recount in Wisconsin; and sought to intervene in a pending case before the Supreme Court challenging the extended absentee ballot deadline in Pennsylvania.
“If we count all legally cast ballots we believe the president will win,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien told reporters on Wednesday, declining to specify what he meant by “legally cast ballots.” Stepien’s counterpart, Biden campaign chief Jen O’Malley Dillon, also expressed confidence earlier in the day: “Joe Biden is on track to win this election and he will be the next president of the United States,” she declared.
Republicans add to down-ballot victories
Although Joe Biden is gaining in the Electoral College count, Democrats face a gloomier picture down-ballot. Although many in the party expected to flip control of the Senate and expand their House majority, neither goal seems particularly likely at this point.
Republican hopes of keeping the Senate were buoyed Wednesday when the Associated Press declared that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) had won re-election, fending off a challenge from Democrat Sara Gideon. Collins was one of several Senate Republicans who vastly outperformed the polls and easily held on to their seats, including Joni Ernst of Iowa, Steve Daines of Montana, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
Democrats have managed to flip just two Senate seats so far: Arizona (where astronaut Mark Kelly defeated Sen. Martha McSally) and Colorado (where former Gov. John Hickenlooper defeated Sen. Cory Gardner). Republicans flipped one seat, with former football coach Tommy Tuberville beating Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama.
Control of the Senate now stands at 48-48, with races in Alaska, North Carolina, and Georgia yet to be decided. Georgia had two Senate races on the ballot this year: a special election and a regularly-scheduled one. The special election has already been projected to go to a runoff in January between Democratic pastor Raphael Warnock and Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. In the regular election, Republican Sen. David Perdue currently leads Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, 50% to 47.6%. If Perdue falls below 50% in the final tally (95% of the vote is in so far), the race will also be decided by a January runoff.
With Republican incumbents leading in the Alaska and North Carolina races, it is increasingly likely that the Senate majority will be determined by the Georgia races, possibly not for another two months.
In the House, Democrats are expected to keep their majority — but it will be a diminished one. Republicans have already flipped 8 seats, with 40 races yet to be declared; Democrats have flipped just two, both due to redistricting in North Carolina.
The prospect of divided government — Democrats controlling the presidency and House of Representatives, Republicans controlling the Senate — seems increasingly likely, pointing to at least two years of gridlock in Washington. A Republican-controlled Senate would greatly limit the ability of Democrats to ram through many of their legislative priorities, as well as progressive wish-list items such as expanding the Supreme Court and implementing universal health care.
If Biden does win the presidency, a GOP-led Senate would also loom large over his transition, likely dooming progressive Cabinet picks and requiring him to stock his administration with moderate figures more likely to receive confirmation.
All times Eastern.
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have no public events scheduled.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris have no public events scheduled.
The Senate is not in session.
The House will meet at 10:30 am for a brief pro forma session.
The Supreme Court has no conferences or oral arguments scheduled.
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