US election: Which states do Biden and Trump need to claim in order to win?

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Patrick Semansky/AP

With the result of the US presidential election on a knife-edge, President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are now battling for a handful of states that will prove crucial in determining who wins the White House.

The key states that the race now hinges upon are Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia.

The “Blue Wall” battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan are projected to be Democrat wins, so if Biden wins Nevada, his electoral vote count would be 270, which is the exact number he needs to claim the White House.

Nevada is expected to update its results tally at lunchtime on Thursday local time — early evening in Europe.

Around 75% of the votes are in and Biden leads by less than 10,000 ballots but there are also outstanding ballots left to be counted in the coming days and under state law, they can still be accepted so long as they were postmarked on election day.

Georgia could go either way. While it initially looked like Trump would win, the president now only has a narrow lead of around 18,000 votes, with 99% counted. If Biden wins Georgia he would be safely over the line with 280 electoral college votes.

Outstanding ballots are still to be counted in counties where Biden has performed well.

Trump needs Pennsylvania and the three other outstanding states to win. If he does not win the “keystone state” of Pennsylvania, the president will not be able to reach 270.

On Thursday morning, the Republican’s lead had slipped to about 136,000 and the race is destined to get tighter.

The reason for the delay in results from the state is because elections officials are not allowed to process mail-in ballots until election day under state law.

A final vote total may not even be clear for days because the use of mail-in ballots, which take more time to process, has surged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

After a vote count that is reaching the 48-hour mark, a Biden landslide is off the table. The victory will be narrow. It’s just a matter of who and how — and how long until we know.

It was unclear when or how quickly a winner could be determined.

The high stakes election was held against the backdrop of a historic pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 Americans and wiped away millions of jobs. Both candidates spent months pressing dramatically different visions for the nation’s future and voters responded in huge numbers, with more than 100 million people casting votes ahead of election day.

Florida goes for trump but Arizona becomes late focus

The margins were exceedingly tight, with the candidates trading wins in battleground states across the country. Trump picked up Florida, the largest of the swing states, while Biden is thought to have flipped Arizona, a state that has reliably voted Republican in recent elections.

The AP has projected Biden to be the winner in Arizona and said Thursday that it was monitoring the vote count as it proceeded.

State officials say there are about 450,000 votes still to be counted in the state, and Biden has a 2.35 percentage point lead over Trump, an advantage of about 68,000 votes.

The AP called the race in Arizona for Biden at 2:50 a.m. EST Wednesday after an analysis of ballots cast statewide concluded Trump could not catch up in the ballots left to be counted.

Arizona has a long political history of voting Republican. It’s the home state of Barry Goldwater, a five-term, conservative senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1964. John McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, represented the state in Congress from 1983 until his 2018 death.

But changing demographics, including a fast-growing Latino population and a boom of new residents — some fleeing the skyrocketing cost of living in neighbouring California — have made the state friendlier to Democrats.

The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in the state, where votes were also still being counted in places including in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous area.

Trump, in an extraordinary move from the White House, issued premature claims of victory on Wednesday and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court to stop the counting.

Biden, briefly appearing in front of supporters in Delaware, urged patience, saying the election “ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted.”

“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election,” Biden said. “That’s the decision of the American people.”

Pennsylvania mail-in voting

Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. That includes Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by November 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days after the election.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf tweeted that his state had over 1 million ballots to be counted and that he “promised Pennsylvanians that we would count every vote and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Trump appeared to suggest those ballots should not be counted, and that he would fight for that outcome at the high court. But legal experts were dubious of Trump’s declaration.

“I do not see a way that he could go directly to the Supreme Court to stop the counting of votes. There could be fights in specific states, and some of those could end up at the Supreme Court. But this is not the way things work,” said Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California-Irvine.

Trump has appointed three of the high court’s nine justices including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.

Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while the GOP looks to make up ground in Election Day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes — early or Election Day — were being reported by the states.

Throughout the campaign, Trump cast doubt about the integrity of the election and repeatedly suggested that mail-in ballots should not be counted. Both campaigns had teams of lawyers at the ready to move into battleground states if there were legal challenges.

Trump hangs on to Texas, Iowa, Florida and Ohio

Trump kept several states, including Texas, Iowa and Ohio, where Biden had made a strong play in the final stages of the campaign. But Biden also picked off states where Trump sought to compete, including New Hampshire and Minnesota. But Florida was one of the biggest, fiercely contested battleground on the map, with both campaigns battling over the 29 Electoral College votes that went to Trump.

The president adopted Florida as his new home state, wooed its Latino community, particularly Cuban-Americans, and held rallies there incessantly. For his part, Biden deployed his top surrogate — President Barack Obama — there twice in the campaign’s closing days and benefitted from a $100 million pledge in the state from Michael Bloomberg.

What’s at stake?

Democrats entered election night confident not only in Biden’s prospects but also in the party’s ability to take control of the Senate. The Democrats appeared to flip seats in Arizona and Colorado. But the GOP held several seats that were considered vulnerable, including in Iowa and Maine. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control, but with a smaller majority.

The coronavirus pandemic — and Trump’s handling of it — was the inescapable focus for 2020.

For Trump, the election stood as a judgement on his four years in office, a term in which he bent Washington to his will, challenged faith in its institutions and changed how America was viewed across the globe.

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