Joe Biden is ready to give a victory speech. But he needs just one more victory in one of three too-close-to-call states where they’re still counting ballots: Nevada, Pennsylvania or Georgia.
As mail-in ballot results from the three battlegrounds slowly trickled in, Biden’s lead widened Thursday in Nevada and he started eating further into President Donald Trump’s margins in Georgia and Pennsylvania, where the Democrat’s campaign and surrogates forecast a win.
Biden gave a brief address Thursday afternoon, and he urged people to relax and let the vote counting finish, drawing a clear contrast with Trump, who was spreading baseless conspiracy theories about voting on Twitter, which flagged the president’s messages for being misleading.
“Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well. But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years, the system of governance that has been the envy of the world,” Biden said, expressing confidence that he will be declared the winner.
“I asked everyone to stay calm. All people to stay calm. The process is working. The count is being completed. And we’ll know very soon.”
Trump hours later took to the White House lectern and delivered a string of false assertions and conspiracy theories about elections, polling and general “shenanigans” surrounding mailed ballots and vote tallies.
“It‘s amazing how those mail-in ballots are so one-sided,“ Trump said at one point, eliding the fact that he had repeatedly encouraged his supporters not to vote by mail.
Earlier in the day, Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon told reporters that the campaign felt good about its position in Nevada and was “looking for that moment in Pennsylvania and Georgia today where we see that ticker overtake Donald Trump. We think it’s going to happen … We’re very optimistic and we don’t we don’t really care which state takes us over the top.”
The easiest state to do that for Biden is Nevada, which is worth six Electoral College votes – the exact number he needs to get him to the 270 to secure a win.
Biden is leading by a point, or 11,400 votes, in Nevada, which is expecting 60,000 mail-in ballots from Democrat-rich Clark County to be counted on Friday along with another 60,000 provisional ballots.
“It looks really good for us, and I don’t know how Trump catches us in Nevada,” said a Biden adviser tracking the numbers. “But we’re not doing anything rash. We’re not going to say we won until there’s a call. There’s a speech ready to go. But he’s not giving it until the time is right. That could be tonight. It could be tomorrow.”
In Georgia, as mail-in ballots came in, Trump’s margin fell from about 19,000 Thursday morning to 3,635 by 7:15 p.m. The state, worth 16 Electoral College votes, had fewer than 19,000 absentee ballots left to be counted, many from Democratic-leaning counties.
“It’s going to take time … We can’t know how long the process will take,” said Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager. Sterling said the state technically has 10 days after the election to finish its count and that ballots are still coming in.
In Pennsylvania, there were roughly 370,000 mail ballots left to be counted as of the latest update from the Department of State Thursday at about 1:30 p.m. Trump’s lead dropped throughout the day and stood at 108,000 by 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Pennsylvania carries 20 electoral votes.
Pennsylvania Democrats are confident that the outstanding mail ballots will break in their favor and Biden will win. So far, about 77 percent of them have gone for Biden.
“The question is what will the margin be,” said Sen. Bob Casey, a Biden ally. “I don’t think it will be a 1-point race.”
The Trump campaign is also projecting that it’s on track to win Pennsylvania, arguing that many of the outstanding mail ballots are located in pro-Trump counties. However, Trump encouraged his voters to cast ballots in person, and not by mail. So as the ballots came in from Republican counties, Biden still won the lion’s share of them.
“Watching Trump’s lead in states evaporate or disappear because of mail-in votes is some galactic-level karma,” said a frustrated Trump adviser.
Trump’s overall path to reelection is considerably more narrow, and his campaign is pinning its dwindling hopes on holding Pennsylvania by roughly 40,000 votes and surging back in Arizona, which has already been called for Biden.
“Donald Trump is alive and well,” campaign manager Bill Stepien said on a conference call with reporters, mentioning Arizona, where later counts are trending toward Trump.
Stepien criticized Democrats and without evidence accused them of underhanded tactics. Trump’s campaign had erroneously claimed victory in Pennsylvania on Wednesday, a position Stepien dialed back in the call.
“We still have confidence in Pennsylvania," he said. “We will win Pennsylvania."
Meantime, Trump’s campaign has filed lawsuits to halt vote-counting in Pennsylvania and Michigan over alleged access issues to observe mail-in ballot-counting, poll-watching and disenfranchisement. Republicans have also filed a lawsuit in Georgia, as well as a third legal challenge in Nevada.
In Pennsylvania, Trump’s team also wants to intervene in a Supreme Court case into whether ballots received by elections officials up to three days after the election can be counted.
And they’re gearing up for a possible recount in Wisconsin, though Republicans and elections experts acknowledge that recounting votes is exceedingly unlikely to make up the tens of thousands of votes that Trump trails by.
Biden’s campaign and Democrats are fighting back in Wisconsin and the courts.
On Thursday, Democrats moved to intervene in a lawsuit from Trump and Georgia Republicans to stop absentee ballot counting in Chatham County, Ga., where the highest number of outstanding ballots are in the state.
Bob Bauer, a Biden legal adviser and former White House counsel, dismissed the lawsuits as part of a broader misinformation campaign. Bauer pointed to the case in Chatham, which he said was based on the unfounded suspicions of a single Trump-aligned counting observer who claimed that county officials mixed 53 late-arriving ballots with other ballots that were received on time.
Trump’s campaign wants those ballots separated, which the law already requires. "I think it’s kind of comical, but that’s what’s involved," Bauer said.
"I want to emphasize that for their purposes, these lawsuits don’t have to have merit," he added. "The purpose is not to bring bona fide claims before the court. It is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process."
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