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Race Up In The Air, Even As Trump Falsely Claims Victory

Election workers in Philadelphia count ballots on Tuesday. Pennsylvania is among several swing states that have yet to be called.
Spencer Platt
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Getty Images
Election workers in Philadelphia count ballots on Tuesday. Pennsylvania is among several swing states that have yet to be called.

Tight races, strong turnout and record amounts of mail-in voting have created a nail-biter of a presidential election: As of 2 a.m. ET, the results are still up in the air and both candidates are saying they're going to win.

Races in crucial swing states hung in the balance all evening until after midnight, when The Associated Press called Florida and Ohio for President Trump and Minnesota for Joe Biden.

But the AP said it was too early to call swing states including Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Nevada — as well as Georgia. At 2 a.m., Biden had 224 of the 270 electoral college votes needed to cinch the race, while President Trump had 213 votes. A total of 101 votes hung in the balance.

Trump has trailed Biden in the polls and in fundraising, and had raced to try to regain ground particularly after he lost 10 days' of campaigning when he caught the coronavirus and was hospitalized. The pandemic and Trump's handling of it has been a central issue in the race.

But he has outperformed expectations in Florida, where he campaigned hard on an anti-socialism message for the Latino vote. That win, along with Ohio and Iowa, has given him a path to victory — though he still needs to pick up more swing states.

Election officials in two of those pivotal states — Pennsylvania and Michigan — have said the ballot counts in some areas of the states won't be finished until at least Wednesday.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to supporters early Wednesday in Wilmington, Del., as his wife, Jill Biden, looks on.
Paul Sancya / AP
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AP
Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to supporters early Wednesday in Wilmington, Del., as his wife, Jill Biden, looks on.

Biden spoke at a drive-in rally with his supporters in Wilmington, Del., early Wednesday, saying he wasn't surprised the vote was taking a long time to count, and expressing optimism about Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as Pennsylvania. "We believe we're on track to win this election," he said. "It ain't over 'til every vote is counted."

Shortly after, Trump responded on Twitter, saying he would be making a statement of his own about "a big WIN" and accused Democrats of "trying to STEAL the election."

Twitter flagged the tweet for being misleading. Votes were not cast after polls were closed. Rather, it's taking time to count them because of the large number of mail-in ballots.

Voter turnout was projected to be the highest since 1908, with record levels of early and mail-in voting as people looked for ways to avoid long lines on Election Day amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump was watching returns in the White House, where his campaign — once again flouting norms that traditionally keep political activities separate from the official trappings of the White House — set up a war room in an adjacent office building. (His campaign defended the move, saying there was no expense incurred by taxpayers.)

Earlier in the day, Trump had sounded reflective. "I think we're going to have a great night," his voice raspy after a marathon of rallies in the last days of the election. "But it's politics and it's elections and you never know."

President Trump visits his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday as Americans went to the polls to decide whether to give him a second term.
Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images
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President Trump visits his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va., on Tuesday as Americans went to the polls to decide whether to give him a second term.

His aides were confident about turning out the vote from the get-go. "We feel better and more confident about our position now in 2020 than we did at this exact moment in 2016," Jason Miller told reporters. Miller, a senior adviser, was in the campaign's war room four years ago when Trump pulled off an improbable Electoral College victory.

Trump has long railed against the prospect that the election would not be settled on Tuesday, complaining about a Supreme Court decision that will allow mail-in ballots in Pennsylvania to be counted for three days after the election.

Earlier this week, an Axios report citing unnamed Trump confidantes raised the specter that Trump would prematurely declare victory — but on Tuesday morning, he said he would do so "only when there's victory. There's no reason to play games."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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.
Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.