Democrat Joe Biden captured the U.S. presidency on Saturday as voters narrowly rebuffed Republican incumbent Donald Trump’s tumultuous leadership and embraced Biden’s promise to fight the coronavirus pandemic and fix the economy in a divided nation.
Winning the battleground state of Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes gave the former vice president more than the 270 he needed to triumph, prompting all major TV networks to declare him victor came after four days of nail-biting suspense following Tuesday’s election.
“With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal,” Biden said on Twitter.
Congratulations poured in from leaders around the world, including conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, making it hard for Trump to push his repeated claims, without evidence, that the election was rigged against him.
Trump, who was golfing when the networks made their calls for his rival, immediately accused Biden of “rushing to falsely pose as the winner.”
“This election is far from over,” he said in a statement.
State elections officials across the country say there has been no evidence of significant fraud.
As the news broke, loud cheers erupted in the halls of the hotel where Biden aides were staying and around the country.
“Worth every minute,” of the wait, a Biden aide said, as campaign staff exchanged elbow bumps and air hugs in the lobby.
Biden’s running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, tweeted a video of her congratulating Biden: “We did it Joe!” Harris will be the first woman, the first Black American and the first American of Asian descent to serve as vice president, the country’s No. 2 office.
Cheers and applause was heard in neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. In one community, people emerged onto balconies, yelling, waving and banging pots. The wave of noise built as more people learned of the news. Some were in tears. Music began to play, “We are the Champions” blared.
In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, people clapped, honked car horns and erupted in screams of joy as the news spread of Biden’s victory. Some residents danced on a building’s fire escape, cheering while others screamed “yes!” as they passed by.
In a reminder of the divided state of the country, however, pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” demonstrators gathered at state capitol buildings in Lansing, Michigan, and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
The networks’ declaration that Biden had won came amid internal concerns within Trump’s team about the strategy going forward and pressure on him to pick a more professional legal team to outline where they believe voter fraud took place and show evidence pointing toward it.
One Trump loyalist said Trump simply was not ready to admit defeat even though there would not be enough ballots thrown out in a recount to change the outcome. “There’s a mathematical certainty that he’s going to lose,” the loyalist said.
Biden was expected to address the nation after 8 p.m. on Saturday (1 a.m. Sunday GMT) from his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, according to a campaign aide.
When Biden enters the White House on Jan. 20, the oldest person to assume the office at age 78, he likely will face a difficult task governing in a deeply polarized Washington, underscored by a record nationwide voter turnout.
The former vice president had a 273 to 214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, having won Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes to put him over the 270 he needed to secure the presidency, according to Edison Research.
To secure the win, Biden faced unprecedented challenges. These included Republican-led efforts to limit mail-in voting at a time when a record number of people were due to vote by mail because of the pandemic, which has killed more than 235,000 people in the United States.
Both sides characterized the 2020 election as one of the most crucial in U.S. history, as important as votes during the 1860s Civil War and the 1930s Great Depression.
For months, officials on both sides raised the spectre of the United States not being able to pull off a fair vote. In the end, however, voting at the polls proceeded with limited disruption. Thousands of election monitors from both parties worked for four days to ensure the votes were being counted.
Biden’s victory was driven by strong support from groups including women, African Americans, white voters with college degrees and city-dwellers. He was more than four million votes ahead of Trump in the nationwide popular vote count.
Biden, who has spent half a century in public life as a U.S. senator and then vice president under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, will inherit a nation in turmoil over the coronavirus pandemic and the related economic slowdown as well as disruptive protests against racism and police brutality.
Biden has said his first priority will be developing a plan to contain and recover from the pandemic, promising to improve access to testing and, unlike Trump, to heed the advice of leading public health officials and scientists.
He also has pledged to restore a sense of normalcy to the White House after a presidency in which Trump praised authoritarian foreign leaders, disdained longstanding global alliances, refused to disavow white supremacists and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the U.S. election system.
Despite his victory, Biden will have failed to deliver the sweeping repudiation to Trump that Democrats had hoped for, reflecting the deep support the president enjoys despite his tumultuous four years in office.
This could complicate Biden’s campaign promises to reverse key parts of Trump’s legacy. These include deep Trump tax cuts that especially benefited corporations and the wealthy, hardline immigration policies, efforts to dismantle the 2010 Obamacare healthcare law and Trump’s abandonment of such international agreements as the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal.
Should Republicans keep control of the U.S. Senate, they would likely block large parts of his legislative agenda, including expanding healthcare and fighting climate change. That prospect could depend on the outcome of four undecided Senate races, including two in Georgia.
Investors said on Saturday the market’s focus was likely to turn on the Senate, which would determine how much a Biden administration is able to do in terms of policy.
“Trump is going to fight for a few weeks. That’s going to be a little unsettling for markets,” said Jim Awad, senior managing director at Clearstead Advisors in New York. “But most commentators believe Biden will prevail, that the election is over, and the Senate is going to have to compromise.”
For Trump, 74, it was an unsettling end after an astonishing political rise. The real estate developer who established a nationwide brand as a reality TV personality upset Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the presidency in 2016 in his first run for elected office. Four years later, he becomes the first U.S. president to lose a re-election bid since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Despite his draconian immigration curbs, Trump made surprising inroads with Latino voters. He also won battleground states such as Florida, where his pledge to prioritize the economy even if it increased the threat of the coronavirus appeared to have resonated.
In the end, though, Trump failed to significantly widen his appeal beyond a committed core of rural and working-class white voters who embraced his right-wing populism and “America First” nationalism.
Prior to the election, Trump had refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost to Biden – and he stuck to that approach. He falsely declared victory long before counting was complete.
Before Biden’s victory projection and with Trump’s re-election chances fading as more votes were counted, the president launched an extraordinary assault on the country’s democratic process from the White House on Thursday, falsely claiming the election was being stolen from him.
Offering no evidence, Trump assailed election workers and alleged fraud in the states where results from a dwindling set of uncounted votes pushed Biden nearer to victory.
“This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election,” Trump said on Thursday.
Urging patience as votes were counted, Biden responded on Twitter: “No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever.”