WASHINGTON — Joe Biden insisted Thursday that he was on the verge of winning the presidency, urging calm and patience as the final votes were counted. As he did, President Donald Trump made more legal claims and promoted allegations about voter fraud in a number of states that he was losing or seeing his lead diminish.
With tension high in states that remained too close to call, weary election officials continued tallying results, at times with police protecting them from protesters as the presidency hung in the balance of final tabulations in a handful of states.
Biden remained in the lead, with 253 electoral votes to Trump’s 214 and a number of pathways toward winning the 270 needed to secure the presidency. The former vice president maintained his leads in Arizona and Nevada, while Trump’s advantages were diminishing in Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Officials in Pennsylvania, the biggest electoral prize and a state that would given Biden enough Electoral College votes to be declared the winner, said they were ahead of schedule and might have enough ballots tallied by Thursday night to declare a winner.
On Thursday afternoon, Trump’s campaign issued a statement from him using exclamation points and all-caps lettering to drive home a charge of election rigging.
“IF YOU COUNT THE LEGAL VOTES, I EASILY WIN THE ELECTION!” Trump said in the statement. “IF YOU COUNT THE ILLEGAL AND LATE VOTES, THEY CAN STEAL THE ELECTION FROM US!”
Minutes later, Biden wrote on Twitter: “Be patient, folks. Votes are being counted, and we feel good about where we are.”
Biden’s campaign has expressed increasing optimism that a victory is imminent, creating a website to promote the work of his transition team. Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., on Thursday held a briefing at a theater in Wilmington, Delaware, with a team of health and economic advisers to discuss the coronavirus crisis.
It was a visible sign of what his campaign hoped to project: Biden soberly preparing to transition into the White House. Trump, meanwhile, had not been seen publicly since the early morning hours of Wednesday, when he gathered with supporters at the White House and declared he had won. He spoke Thursday evening.
“Democracy is sometimes messy. Sometimes it requires a little patience, as well,” Biden said Thursday afternoon following his briefing.
“We continue to feel very good about where things stand. And we have no doubt that when the count is finished, Senator Harris and I will be declared the winners,” he added. “So I ask everyone to stay calm — all people to stay calm. The process is working. The count is being completed. And we’ll know very soon.”
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon displayed several slides to reporters earlier in the day, demonstrating how they think Biden will win at least four of the remaining six competitive states. She said their calculations showed Biden’s lead might narrow in Arizona and Nevada, particularly as results from more pro-Trump rural areas are counted, but they remained confident that returns from urban strongholds would help protect their lead.
“We don’t really care which state takes us over the top. We just want to keep going and make sure the counts get done,” O’Malley Dillon said. “We know that it’s going to take a little bit of time and we support that, and we’re just going to stay calm and be patient.”
Biden and other Democrats got a bit of good news Thursday, as Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., fell below the 50% mark in his bid for reelection. If that holds once counting is completed, it would trigger a runoff in January. A second Georgia Senate race is already expected to lead to a runoff.
Democrats lost multiple Senate races Tuesday, and their chances of drawing a 50-50 split in the Senate would rest on winning both of those races.
The legal wrangling also continued Thursday, with Trump’s campaign attempting to sow doubt in the election results in a way that could seek to change the results as well as produce an explanation for a loss.
Biden campaign attorney Bob Bauer accused Trump’s campaign of engaging in a series of “meritless” lawsuits meant to misinform the public and disrupt the vote count.
“This is part of a broader misinformation campaign that involves some political theater,” he said, adding that the Trump camp has provided no evidence of wrongdoing.
Several Trump allies have said vote irregularities have affected the tally in states including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Nevada. The campaign has filed lawsuits in several of those states attempting to halt or alter the vote-counting process.
“These magical sacks of ballots that keep popping up in corrupt and crooked localities that are run by partisan Democrats — we’re going to have eyes on them,” Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller told reporters Thursday. “And we’re going to make sure they’re not able to pull a fast one on the American people.”
The campaign touted a legal ruling in Pennsylvania that allowed Republican observers to get a closer look at the ballot-counting process. A judge in Georgia dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign on Thursday. The lawsuit alleged voter fraud in a few dozen ballots but lacked evidence.
For his part, Trump tweeted his post-election displeasure from the White House.
“STOP THE FRAUD,” he tweeted Thursday afternoon. Twitter deemed the content misleading. Hours earlier he tweeted “STOP THE COUNT.”
Trump and his allies have taken issue with the counting of mail-in ballots after Election Day, claiming that the process of tallying those votes is a sign of voter fraud.
“ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!” Trump wrote on Twitter, another tweet the social media platform hid after deeming it false or misleading.
Trump campaign advisers held a news conference in Nevada in which they claimed dead people and nonresidents had voted in large numbers. Shortly after the event, Biden’s narrow lead in Nevada widened.
By early Thursday evening, after a new batch of votes was tabulated, Biden had a lead of more than 11,000.