Oh so close: Trump and Biden neck and neck in nail-biter

The US Presidential election has lived up to predictions it will go down to the wire, with both President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden picking up key “swing” states but neither candidate establishing a clear lead amid concerns it may take days before a final outcome is known.

Nov 04, 2020, updated Nov 04, 2020
Donald Trump.(Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Donald Trump.(Photo: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Trump is leading Biden in the vital battleground state of Florida and in other competitive swing states that will help decide the election, including North Carolina and Texas.

Fox News network projected Trump would win Florida, a state seen as a must-win in his quest for the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win another four years in the White House.

Trump also appears to have sealed the Ohio race, but Biden has won the day in hotly-contested Minnesota.

“We believe we are on track to win this election,” Biden told supporters minutes ago.

“We’re feeling good about where we are.”

Biden, searching desperately for states to recapture from Trump, was eyeing the so-called “blue wall” states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that sent Trump to the White House in 2016, but vote counting could stretch for hours or days there.

Voters were also to decide which political party controls the US Congress for the next two years, with Democrats narrowly favoured to recapture a Senate majority and retain their control of the House of Representatives.

Trump has already captured conservative states like Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee while Democratic-leaning Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont went to Biden, according to projections by television networks and Edison Research.

None of the approximately dozen battleground states that will decide the race had been settled as polls closed in most US states, although Trump was moving into a lead in many of them.

In Florida, Trump was leading Biden 51.2 per cent to 47.7 per cent with 94 per cent of the expected votes counted.

Part of Trump’s strength in Florida came from an improved performance relative to 2016 in the state’s counties with large Latino populations. Trump’s share of the vote in those counties was larger than it was in the 2016 election.

There were no signs of disruptions or violence at polling sites, as some officials had feared.

The winner may not be determined for days.

A third of US voters listed the economy as the issue that mattered most to them when deciding their choice for president while two out of 10 cited COVID-19, according to an Edison Research exit poll on Tuesday.

In the national exit poll, four out of 10 voters said they thought the effort to contain the virus was going “very badly.”

In the battleground states of Florida and North Carolina, states that could decide the election, five of 10 voters said the national response to the pandemic was going “somewhat or very badly.”

The poll found some signs of slippage in support for Trump. In Georgia, Trump was winning with five of 10 white men with college degrees, down from 8 in 10 in 2016, and five in 10 college graduates, down from 7 in 10 in 2016.

Share markets have swung between losses and gains in wild trading as the election proved far closer than polls had predicted, leaving the outcome utterly in doubt.

Biden, the Democratic former vice president, has put Trump’s handling of the pandemic at the centre of his campaign and has held a consistent lead in national opinion polls over the Republican president.

Biden, 77, appeared to have multiple paths to victory in the state-by-state Electoral College that determines the winner; at least 270 electoral votes, determined in part by a state’s population, are needed to win.

Opinion polls show Trump, 74, is close enough in several election battleground states that he could repeat the type of upset he pulled off in 2016, when he defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton despite losing the national popular vote by about 3 million ballots.

“I’m hopeful,” Biden told reporters in his home state of Delaware.

“What I’m hearing,” Biden added, “is that there’s overwhelming turnout, and overwhelming turnout particularly of young people, of women” and in some states of older black voters – groups expected to favour him.

“I think we’re going to have a great night,” Trump said in Arlington, Virginia where he thanked campaign workers. “But it’s politics and it’s elections, and you never know.”

“Winning is easy. Losing is never easy – not for me it’s not,” Trump added.

Ahead of Election Day, just over 100 million voters cast early ballots either by mail or in person, according to the US Elections Project at the University of Florida.

The total has broken records and prompted some experts to predict the highest voting rates since 1908 and that the vote total could reach 160 million, topping the 138 million cast in 2016.

In anticipation of possible protests, some buildings and stores were boarded up in cities including Washington, Los Angeles and New York. Federal authorities erected a new fence around the White House perimeter.

Among the most closely contested states that are expected to determine the outcome are Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Arizona and Georgia, with Democrats hoping that Biden may even threaten Trump in states that once seemed certain to go Republican such as Ohio, Iowa and Texas.

Voters on Tuesday will also decide which political party controls the US Congress for the next two years, with Democrats narrowly favoured to recapture a Senate majority and retain their control of the House of Representatives.

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There has been concern that Trump will declare victory early, before vote counts are definitive, but the Republican president told Fox News there was no reason to “play games”.

He told the Fox & Friends program he thought he had a “very solid chance at winning”.

Trump said he believed his large rally crowds during the campaign were the “ultimate poll” and translated into a lot of votes.

The president later predicted victory but admitted he could lose while visiting his campaign headquarters just outside Washington, DC.

“I think we’re going to have a great night but it’s politics and it’s elections and you never know,” Trump said during his visit to thank staffers who worked to get him re-elected.

He said his campaign was doing well in states such as Florida, Arizona and Texas. He noted the importance of winning Pennsylvania.

Americans by the millions have patiently lined up to cast ballots at libraries, schools and arenas amid a deadly pandemic in an orderly show of civic duty that belied deep tensions shaping one of the most polarizing presidential campaigns in US history.

The face masks worn by many voters and the sight of boarded-up stores in some city centres were reminders of two big issues defining the 2020 election, with COVID-19 still ravaging parts of the country after a summer of sometimes violence-marred protests against police brutality and racism.

The FBI and the New York attorney-general’s office opened investigations into spates of anonymous robocalls urging people in several states to stay home.

And a federal judge ordered the US Postal Service to conduct a sweep of some facilities across the country for undelivered mail-in ballots and to ship them immediately to election offices to be counted.

Civil liberties groups and law enforcement were on high alert for interference with voters at the polls but few if any major disruptions were reported by late afternoon.

In a troubling incident in the battleground state of North Carolina, a man legally carrying an unconcealed firearm was arrested and charged with trespassing at a polling site in Charlotte.

Supporters cheered and applauded the president at the Republican National Committee’s annex in Arlington, Virginia, after Trump spent days of gruelling campaigning on the road.

“After doing that many rallies, the voice gets a little choppy,” Trump said with his now-gravelly delivery.

Trump said success would bring unity. He listed what he believed were his accomplishments with the coronavirus and the economy.

The President has invited hundreds of supporters to an election party at the White House on Tuesday night while he watches the results come in.



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