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With Race Too Close To Call, Biden And Trump Camps Project Confidence


OK, let's do a little analysis now on what the map is telling us and what the candidates are saying about it. We are joined by NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith and political correspondent Asma Khalid.

Hey, you two.



KELLY: So we did hear from Joe Biden this afternoon. He spoke in Wilmington, Del. Asma, what did he say?

KHALID: Well, he sounded confident. You know, he ticked through some of the results from the so-called blue wall states - Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. And while he, you know, did not declare an outright victory, he did sound optimistic.


JOE BIDEN: I'm not here to declare that we've won. But I am here to report, when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.

KHALID: And, Mary Louise, you know, he also pointed out that his lead in Wisconsin was just about the same margin that President Trump had when he won the state four years ago. He pointed out that his currently - this was earlier in the afternoon - in Michigan was even larger than what President Trump had. And so in pointing out how slim the margins were in Wisconsin and Michigan and comparing them to President Trump in 2016, it seemed to be that he was suggesting, you know, candidates do win races narrowly. And here, look; it happened with the president himself in 2016.

He also pointed out that he was proud that his campaign was on track, he said, to defeat an incumbent president and that they were on track to win the most raw votes in total in history. For him, that was a sign of big voter turnout, which he said was a win for democracy.

But one last thing - you know, I think it was worth pointing out, to me, that the tone of his remarks was also very telling. It was clear that he was trying to counter some of the more reckless rhetoric that the president has been making in the last 24 hours. You know, he said that once the election is finalized, he would work to lower the temperature and that it's important that Americans remember their political opponents are not their enemies.

KELLY: And, Tamara Keith, what's the view from the Trump camp? They say they still see a path to victory. What's it look like?

KEITH: Yeah, they do say that they still see a path to victory, though it is getting narrower with that Michigan call. Pennsylvania is now a must-win state for the president. Actually, all the states are must-win states for the president that remain. And they are pushing especially hard in Pennsylvania. It hasn't been called yet. It's at 87% counted, according to the latest tally. But here's what campaign manager Bill Stepien said about the state today.

BILL STEPIEN: We are declaring a victory in Pennsylvania. This is not based on gut or feel. This is based on math. We have a high degree of certainty that the margin won't be close.

KEITH: Campaigns do not really get to declare victory in states. The vote counting really determines the victory. But the campaign says that they feel confident about North Carolina and Georgia. The president is leading there. And they say they aren't giving up on Nevada, though currently Biden is ahead there narrowly, with more ballots to count. Another state of concern for Republicans is Arizona. It was called last night by the AP and Fox News, but the Trump campaign is pushing hard to get them to reverse the calls while the ballots are being counted.

Meanwhile, President Trump himself was completely out of view today, which is rare for him, though he has been actively tweeting misinformation as he argues that the act of counting absentee ballots is stealing the election from him, which is out of sync with the level of confidence that is being voiced by his campaign at the same time.

KELLY: And, Asma, just to let you touch on this one, the pathway, as the Biden camp sees it, is considerably wider at this point. I mean, he basically needs one of these key swing states, and he's over the line.

KHALID: That's right. He only needs one more state now after both Wisconsin and Michigan have been called by The Associated Press for the Biden campaign. You know, he does have the lead in Nevada. That could push him over the edge. The campaign also, though, does feel confident in Pennsylvania. In a briefing earlier today, Biden's campaign manager was projecting quite a bit of confidence there. You know, she talked about the outstanding ballots, and she felt like many of them were coming from heavily Democratic areas.

You know, one thing I will say about the overall tone of the Biden campaign is that, as we've been hearing, you know, again, sort of dubious claims from the president, I have noticed a sort of progressively stronger language coming from the Biden campaign. Wanting to fight back against some of that, you know, wanting to argue against this idea that the president seems to be suggesting that the election is already a foregone conclusion, they are saying that they don't believe that that's accurate. And Biden's campaign manager earlier today said there's no way that they're going to let him steal the election.

KELLY: Yeah. And before I let you both go, I wonder if I can quickly squeeze in both of you just on the looming prospect of legal threats. Tamara Keith, what is the Trump campaign's strategy in the courts?

KEITH: Well, they have gone to the Supreme Court, trying to intervene in a case about counting mail ballots in Pennsylvania. They're also moving to halt vote counting there until legal observers can get better access to the process. You're seeing something similar in Michigan and Wisconsin. And in Wisconsin, they have already formally asked for a recount. They have literally thousands of lawyers that they are flooding in. And Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal lawyer, went to Pennsylvania and threw around a whole bunch of accusations about cheating and fraud. We can probably expect to see more of that.

KELLY: And, Asma, just briefly, we are correct in assuming the Biden camp is lawyered up and ready for these lawsuits.

KHALID: They are lawyered up, and they are raising money with this new fund, they say, to help them fight those legal challenges as well.

KELLY: NPR political correspondent Asma Khalid and White House correspondent Tamara Keith, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.