Joe Biden appears to have an increasingly clear path to the White House as his advantage over Donald Trump was extending – but the two candidates are taking starkly different approaches in their messages to the US public.
There is still no clear winner in the contest as counting the ballots in six states spills over into a third day.
Biden is urging his supporters to show patience and faith in US democratic system as it grinds out a result, while Trump is sowing doubt and confusion – as well as legal challenges – on those very same processes.
How’s it looking for Biden?
Biden entered Thursday on the front foot, with vote totals released late on Wednesday appearing grim for Trump.
The Biden campaign said on Thursday morning that it believes “victory is imminent”, as it wrote on a slide in a video briefing.
“Our data shows that Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States,” campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said.
If his lead in Arizona holds, Biden is just six Electoral College votes away from victory, having secured wins in Wisconsin and Michigan.
He needs either one of Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, or his home state Pennsylvania, to reach the necessary 270 to claim access to the White House.
Questions remain around five states.
Arizona: The Associated Press and Fox News both projected a victory for Biden on election night, but no other network has since. The gap has narrowed during continued vote-tallying, but Biden still leads by nearly 70,000 votes. An update is expected at 2am GMT on Friday.
Georgia: Biden has eroded much of Trump’s lead, to less than 13,000 votes. There are around 47,000 remaining uncounted ballots.
Nevada: Biden leads by about 12,000 votes, with an estimated 11% of ballots still uncounted. There will be no more votes released today, with daily updates coming at 5pm GMT, including on weekends.
North Carolina: Trump leads by more than 75,000 votes, with an estimated 95% of votes counted. He appears to be in a strong position to win the state.
Pennsylvania: Biden still trails by slightly less than 107,000 votes. However, he closed the gap considerably as counting continued in the populous state Wednesday. Given current trends, many observers expect Biden to ultimately win the state. The Pennsylvania secretary of state said “we definitely could” know the winner of the state late on Thursday night or early on Friday in the UK.
Biden is leading the popular vote by nearly 3.5m votes, with 72,691,278 to Trump’s 69,231,960 as of Thursday morning. See the latest results.
How’s it looking for Trump?
According to AP’s tally, Trump is behind on 214 Electoral College votes and needs all four battleground states – Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania – if he is to stay in the White House.
What has Trump said?
Trump has long sought to undermine the credibility of the voting process if he lost. Since Tuesday, he has falsely declared victory, accused Democrats of trying to steal the election without evidence and vowed to fight states in court.
In a series of tweets that were flagged by Twitter as “misleading”, Trump falsely declared victory in Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina.
None of these races have yet been decided.
The president announced that “we will be going to the US Supreme Court, we want all voting to stop”.
Trump provided no evidence to back up his claim of fraud and did not explain how he would fight the results at the Supreme Court, which does not hear direct challenges.
Later on Wednesday he claimed that it was “very strange” that “surprise ballot dumps” had eroded his overnight lead in key states.
“How come every time they count mail-in ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction?” he said.
Trump’s son Eric has also been vocally sowing doubt the election process, claiming the continuing counting of votes amounted to “corruption”.
He added: “They’re stealing the election from you.”
What legal action is Trump taking?
In a bizarre and contradictory manner, the Trump campaign team is suing to stop counting in some states while extending it in others.
In Michigan, the Trump campaign said it filed suit in state court on Wednesday to halt vote counting, alleging that the campaign was denied access to “numerous counting locations” across the state to observe the opening of ballots.
In Pennsylvania, the campaign moved to intervene in a case that has already been before the US Supreme Court once. The campaign said it is engaged in two other lawsuits intended to stop the counting of ballots immediately by challenging the state’s implementation of first-time voter identification rules and, by appealing a case that failed on Tuesday, claiming the campaign’s observers were not allowed proper access to watch the counting of ballots.
In Nevada, where Trump also trails, his campaign is pushing for the state to keep counting the votes, although that may soon change when absentee ballots start to come in under the extended ballot receipt deadline.
More lawsuits are expected to be filed in Nevada and North Carolina. The campaign is also pushing for a recount in Wisconsin.
What has Biden said?
While stopping short of declaring victory, Biden launched a website for a transition to a Democratic-controlled White House.
His team called it buildbackbetter.com and declared “the Biden-Harris Administration can hit the ground running on Day One.”
He said: “I am not here to declare that we have won. But I am here to report when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.
“Once this election is finalised and behind us, it will be time to do what we have always done as Americans, to put the harsh rhetoric of the campaign behind us [...] to unite, to heal, to come together as a nation.
“I know this won’t be easy. I’m not naïve – neither of us are. I know how deep and hard the opposing views are in our county on so many things, but I also know this as well: to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as enemies.”
Biden’s campaign chief Jen O’Malley Dillon claimed the Democrat was on a “clear path to victory” and would “garner more votes than any presidential candidate in history”.
Among the remaining undeclared states, Georgia is a “toss-up” and North Carolina is “really tight” but “probably leaning towards Trump right now”.
Why has it taken this long?
Voting concluded as scheduled on Tuesday night, but many states routinely take days to finish counting ballots.
Huge numbers of people voted by mail because of the pandemic, making it likely the count will take longer than usual.
Results from Nevada are expected around 5pm GMT on Thursday, while Pennsylvania is not expected to finish for several days.
What are Trump’s supporters doing?
As Trump threatened to sue over what he alleged was a “stolen” election, his supporters in some states gathered to demand counts be stopped – while in others they insisted all ballots be counted, mirroring an inconsistency in the Trump campaign's own attempts at legal action.
After the president claimed, without evidence, that mail-in ballots in states such as Michigan had fraudulently favoured opponent Joe Biden, fans of the president appeared at the TCF Centre in Detroit shouting “let us in” and “stop the count”.
Local media reported raucous scenes as Republican counters attempted to enter the building, alleging they were being unfairly kept out – a claim denied by local Democrats also kept outside.
In stark contrast, pro-Trump demonstrators showed up at counts in Nevada and Arizona demanding that all votes be counted.
Outside the counting centre in Maricopa County, Phoenix, a crowd of Republican supporters, some armed, gathered shouting “count the votes” and “Fox News sucks”, after the right-wing TV network earlier called Arizona in Biden’s favour.
Observers from both parties were inside the election centre as ballots were processed and counted, and the procedure was live-streamed online at all times, PA Media reports.
Several sheriff’s officers blocked the entrance to the building, and the vote-counting went on into the night, Maricopa County Elections Department spokesperson Megan Gilbertson said.