When former Vice President Joe Biden warned of a “dark winter” during his last debate with President Donald Trump, he was referring to an increase in COVID-19 cases across the country. But as Americans woke up Wednesday morning to an unsolved presidential election, the last few months of a year marked by fear and uncertainty now threaten to be even more chaotic.
At 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Trump and Biden remained locked in a battle over results in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin with the vote count likely to stretch for days – all with Trump’s specter keeping his campaign promise to ask that postal votes and postal votes not be taken into account in favor of votes cast in person. The president threatened for months not to recognize the election results he lost, but until Wednesday those threats never materialized.
Advance vote totals among big hitters like Florida, North Carolina and Ohio were reassuring for Biden, supported by a record number of advance and mail-in ballots that disproportionately shrink Democrats. But as in-person totals poured in, Trump’s tally in those states exceeded the former vice president’s lead.
By 9:30 p.m. in the East, Democratic hopes for a landslide victory for Biden – and a decisive refutation of Trumpism – had evaporated. Instead, the Biden campaign watched the barrel of a path to victory that passed squarely through the “rust belt” states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Together, the three states have 46 royal electoral votes, although the state’s rules for counting mail-in ballots mean the final results for the states may not be ready for days.
Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson predicted to reporters on Tuesday night that the state could “potentially see a full result of every tab outside Michigan within the next 24 hours.” In Pennsylvania, where half of the state’s nearly 3 million votes expected to be cast in absence, the state has been legally barred from processing ballots before election day – and some counties may not be able to process ballots before election day. not have a full count before the end of the week.
But promising numbers in longtime Republican stronghold of Arizona – a state that has voted for a Democratic presidential candidate only once since the 1940s – potentially open a wider path for Biden. The former vice president can now cross the 270 Electoral College vote threshold without Pennsylvania, provided he can win Michigan, Wisconsin, Arizona and Nebraska’s second congressional district.
At Trump’s White House, as Tuesday turned into Wednesday morning, the president and some of his closest advisers and family members still held an election surveillance night, with an incredibly premature sense of victory in the room. . Jenna Ellis, Trump’s senior legal adviser who attended the White House party, told the Daily Beast that the mood from the president all the way down was “fantastic,” even as some top advisers began to turn. sweat a little in private.
“The Midwest seems risky to us. We’ll see, ”a senior Trump aide said.
Various Trump aides and associates on the White House party spent much of the evening assuring the Daily Beast that they now felt they had this election up for grabs, also expressing growing confidence. large in critical states such as Pennsylvania. as a belief Arizona would be okay – despite a final Fox News call that he would go to Biden.
When Fox News made the call, it inspired an immediate reaction from the Trump team, with two senior officials revealing to the Daily Beast how the right-wing network’s call seemed, in one of the words of the advise. The president himself, the other official noted, was taken aback and “pissed off” by the development and “couldn’t believe it.” Jason Miller, a senior Trump adviser on the re-election campaign, took to Twitter to call on Fox to “withdraw his appeal at once. “
Shortly before 1:00 am ET on Wednesday, the president posted on Twitter, “We’re BIG, but they’re trying to STEAL the election. We will never let them do it. Trump added that votes “cannot be cast” after the “Poles” close, which clearly means “polls” are closed.
Ellis told the Daily Beast shortly after 1 a.m. that “we are [still] very confident ”and“ the mood inside the White House is excited and we look forward to four more years! Trump’s legal adviser also noted that if she went to a contested election, she would be involved in the legal fight against Democrats. “We are ready to take legal action if necessary to ensure the protection of the Constitution and free and fair elections,” she said.
President Trump had privately told those close to him in the days leading up to the election that if the Electoral College victory seemed to depend on countless ballots in critical states like Pennsylvania, Florida or Michigan, he could declare preventive victory on the basis of the anticipated vote count, regardless of the number of postal or postal ballots remaining to be counted. He also told confidants he wanted Republican lawyers on hold and “ready to fight” at any time if election night were to be plunged into uncertainty. This so-called “red mirage”, as the former housing secretary Julían Castro doubled it in a public service announcement to voters last week, “that sounds like a super-villain – and it’s just as insidious.”
“There is a real possibility the data shows Republicans are leading early, before all the votes are counted,” Castro described at the time. “Then they can pretend that something sinister happens when the accounts change in favor of Democrats.”
Or, as a source close to Biden grimly told the Daily Beast, “Trump will burn the country if he can rule from the ashes.”
Speaking in Wilmington, Delaware, however, the former vice president encouraged supporters to trust the process – and told them that despite the delays, “we think we’re on the right track to winning this. election”.
“We knew this was going to last a long time… but listen, we feel good where we are at. We really do! Biden told the Chase Center, telling a large crowd of honking automobiles that he was convinced he would win in Pennsylvania. “It’s not up to me or Donald Trump to declare who won the election – it’s the place of the American people.
“Keep the faith guys, we’re going to win this,” Biden continued. Masked participants rushed into the parking lot, while others in their vehicles continued to honk, sometimes at length, after Biden spoke. Bearing one of the only similarities to a traditional campaign event, some Biden fans held flags and signs bearing the candidate’s last name.
Ahead of Biden’s speech on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., supporters mostly gathered in their cars in a half-filled parking lot outside the Chase Center. A woman poked her head out of her sunroof in anticipation of the arrival of the former vice president. Another car, a convertible parked in a separate section, had its roof down despite the 39-degree cold in Wilmington.
Several widescreen televisions were turned on to MSNBC with sound enabled. The voice of host Steve Kornacki echoed across the pitch, before a rotation of other anchors and guests discussed the incomplete results. Various cars began to honk loudly when Rachel Maddow (spelling) announced that Biden was “in the lead” in Minnesota.
In Pennsylvania, for example, state law actually prohibited the counting of mail-in ballots before election day. And senior election officials there have said it could take days, especially with absentee votes being crushed amid the pandemic, to get a final result. In the months leading up to Election Day, Trump’s re-election campaign, the Republican National Committee and many Tory allies had already exhausted vast resources and millions of dollars in legal wrangling and publicity campaigns aimed at curbing the practice of voting by mail. during the coronavirus pandemic.
The president, for his part, has apparently prepared for a contested election. In the days leading up to election day, the White House compound was barricaded with non-scalable fencing and 600 National Guard soldiers were tasked with deploying to the nation’s capital if the Secretary of the Army asked. their presence to suppress potential manifestations.
For voters already on the verge of stability, the prospect of a repeat of the hotly contested 2000 presidential election, which lasted until mid-December and was only resolved by a decision 5-4 of the Supreme Court, now hangs over the as- results as yet undetermined as the nation simultaneously grapples with a growing pandemic – a historic collision of national crises.
Biden, who framed the campaign from the start as a ‘battle for the soul of the nation’ herself, had warned in the final days of the campaign that Trump would reject anything but a landslide victory for the former vice president – a victory which, for the moment, has not materialized. When asked during a campaign stop in Philadelphia on Sunday about reports that Trump would seek to call the race earlier, Biden said confidently that “the president will not steal this election.”
But the Biden campaign was less confident in a clear outcome in recent weeks, telling high-net-worth donors it was raising funds in anticipation of a never-ending legal battle on multiple fronts in case Trump challenges the election.
“The Biden campaign has assembled the largest voter protection program in history to ensure the smooth running of the election and to combat any attempt by Donald Trump to create fear and confusion with our electoral system, or to interfere in the democratic process, ”Biden campaign spokesman Michael Gwin told the Daily Beast last month.
In Wilmington, cold Biden supporters made it clear that – at least in front of reporters – they take this message to heart. After Biden spoke, a woman sat on the roof of her Ford SUV, a white blanket over her lap, waving a small American flag as Beyoncé’s “Freedom” played loudly on the audio system.
“I’m going to keep running because the winner doesn’t stop on himself,” said the lyrics.
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