Biden takes the lead in Pennsylvania, Georgia as Trump falsely claims fraud


Angel Chevrestt | @sobrofotos

A voter approaches the Jackson County Court House on Election Day 2020 in Murphysboro, IL, Tuesday, November 3, 2020.

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden pulled into the lead Friday in Pennsylvania, a state that would give him the electoral votes to win the presidency, as his campaign prepared to claim victory after a days of prolonged vote counting.

The lead in Pennsylvania came just hours after Biden also overtook President Donald Trump, by the slimmest of margins, in Georgia, moving ahead in a state that Democrats hadn’t won in a presidential election since 1992.

Pennsylvania still has tens of thousands of ballots left to count. They come primarily from parts of the state that heavily favored Biden, leaving his campaign confident that he will soon be declaring he has won the presidency, perhaps with the state of his birth being the one to put him over the top.


Trump had been leading the vote count in Pennsylvania, a state that carried him to victory in 2016, since election day, when he was up by more than 700,000 votes.

But the gap steadily narrowed as mail ballots from the state’s heavily Democrat metropolitan areas were slowly counted. At stake in Pennsylvania is a trove of 20 electoral college votes.

Other battleground states with counting still in process include two where Biden holds narrow leads: Arizona, where Trump made gains overnight, and Nevada.

Winning Pennsylvania, along with previously declared states of Wisconsin and Michigan, would be a fulfillment of Biden’s core strategic goal: Rebuilding the “blue wall” of traditionally Democratic states in the Industrial Midwest that Trump had succeeded in demolishing in 2016.

But if Biden also wins in Georgia and Arizona, his will be a much broader victory, built not just on rebuilding the party’s traditional base but also reaching into new, traditionally Republican territory in the Sun Belt.

A victory in Arizona would be a testimony to Democrats’ growing appeal to Latino voters, even as Biden fell short of expectations among that voting bloc in Florida. A victory in Georgia, home state of the late civil rights icon John Lewis, would be an important breakthrough for Democrats hoping to make inroads in a changing South and a testament to the strong support Biden has received from Black voters.

Vote counting continued into its third post- election day, despite the Trump campaign’s multiple legal maneuvers to slow or block the tally and the president’s baseless claims of vote fraud.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R- Ky., on Twitter Friday morning made a carefully worded statement that did not openly challenge Trump, but fell short of a full-throated endorsement of his false claims.

“Here’s how this must work in our great country: Every legal vote should be counted,” McConnell said. ” Any illegally-submitted ballots must not. All sides must get to observe the process. And the courts are here to apply the laws & resolve disputes.That’s how Americans’ votes decide the result.”

Pennsylvania’s GOP Sen. Pat Toomey, in an interview on CBS Friday morning, disputed the president’s claim and belatedly defended the integrity of his state’s vote count.

“I am not aware of any significant fraud, any significant wrongdoing,” said Toomey, who has announced he will not seek another term in 2022. “If it’s happened, then the evidence needs to come out, we need to go to court, we need to punish the wrongdoers, we need to redress whatever went wrong. But I’m not aware of any such evidence.”

Biden had a small lead of nearly 1,100 votes early Friday in Georgia, a traditional GOP stronghold with 16 electoral college votes,

The presidential race will probably go to a recount in Georgia, said Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for the secretary of state’s office. Under Georgia law, a losing candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is 0.5% or less of the total vote.

On Thursday afternoon, Biden made a brief appearance in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., and urged patience as the election pushed through its second day of overtime.

“Each ballot must be counted,” he said at the Queen theater, a historic performing arts center downtown. “That’s what we’re going to see going through now…. Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well.”

Biden expressed confidence, as he did Wednesday, that he and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, would prevail. He once again avoided any declaration of victory, closing with a call for calm and an endorsement of the election’s integrity.

“The process is working,” Biden said. “The count is being completed and we’ll know very soon.”

A subdued Trump responded hours later at the White House, where he renewed accusations of voter fraud without offering any evidence to back up his claim.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” he said. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”

After keeping from sight for the better part of two days, Trump appeared deflated as he read his remarks. He did not take questions from reporters. In a departure from the wall-to-wall coverage of his presidency, several of the major television networks cut away before Trump had even finished.

He was more pugnacious on Twitter. “Stop the count!” Trump demanded, as teams of lawyers around the country set out to do so. Several of the suits were quickly dismissed.

Trump also seemed to be losing some of his unflinching Republican support.

Several lawmakers castigated Trump for his comments challenging the legitimacy of the vote. The New York Post, which has often served as mouthpiece for the president, rejected his assertions in a tweet that read, “Downcast Trump makes baseless election fraud claims in White House address.”

Protesters supporting both candidates have been gathering outside locations where vote counting was underway. There were demonstrations and counter-demonstrations across the country.

But the wreckage and ruin that many feared did not materialize.

Instead, there was the quiet but deliberate work of whittling down mountains of mail-in ballots.

Biden urged his supporters to vote before election day, to avoid the risk of crowding into polling places amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump discouraged his backers from mailing their votes, urging them to show up on Tuesday. In many states, those ballots were counted first, which is why the president jumped out to an early lead in contests that have since moved Biden’s way.

At one point Trump was ahead by about 300,000 votes in Georgia and more than 700,000 votes in Pennsylvania. But those leads steadily dwindled as ballots from the states’ heavily Democratic metropolitan areas were tabulated.

There was one bright spot Thursday for Trump: Arizona, where Biden’s lead fell to fewer than 50,000 votes after an updated count was announced.

The Associated Press and other news organizations called the state for the former vice president based on an analysis of returns that were tabulated and where the outstanding votes would come from.

But it was a thin reed of hope for the president.

Even if he pulled ahead to win Arizona’s 11 electoral votes, he would still need to prevail in some combination of Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania to reach 270 electoral votes. Biden is ahead in Nevada, and Trump leads in North Carolina.

That did not stop the president from waging an effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans. Lawyers for Trump filed lawsuits in several states, alleging unspecified voting irregularities and seeking to bring the vote counting to a halt.

At a news conference Thursday morning outside the Clark County Election Department in North Las Vegas, representatives of the president — including the former acting director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell — claimed without proof that Nevada’s election was riddled with fraud.

County Registrar Joe Gloria disputed the assertion, saying he personally spoke with a plaintiff in Trump’s suit who alleged someone improperly cast her ballot. “We reviewed the ballot, and in our opinion it’s her signature,” Gloria said.

Other lawsuits were summarily dismissed in Michigan and Georgia.

With some exceptions — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina among them — many top Republicans stayed silent or condemned Trump’s false claims. That left it mostly to the president’s die-hard supporters and commentators on Fox News, talk radio and other sympathetic outlets to make his case.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who briefly considered challenging Trump in the Republican primaries, was blunt in his criticism.

“There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process,” he tweeted. “America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before. No election or person is more important than our Democracy. “

Even Sean Spicer, who fiercely defended the president and his prevarications as White House press secretary, said in a SiriusXM interview that he had seen no evidence of mass fraud.

“You can’t just throw a term out there without being specific,” he said.


( Times staff writers Michael Finnegan in Philadelphia, Chris Megerian in Washington, Brittny Mejia in Las Vegas and Melanie Mason in Wilmington contributed to this report.)


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