WILMINGTON, Del./WASHINGTON. — President Donald Trump falsely claimed victory over Democratic rival Joe Biden on Wednesday with millions of votes still uncounted in a White House race that will not be decided until a handful of states complete vote-counting over the next hours or days.
Shortly after Biden said he was confident of winning the contest once the votes are counted, Trump appeared at the White House to declare victory and said his lawyers would be taking his case to the US Supreme Court, without specifying what they would claim.
“We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election,” Trump said.
“This is a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the US Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”
Polls have closed and voting has stopped across the country, but election laws in US states require all votes to be counted, and many states routinely take days to finish counting legal ballots. More votes stood to be counted this year than in the past as people voted early by mail and in person because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier in the evening, Trump won the battlegrounds of Florida, Ohio and Texas, dashing Biden’s hopes for a decisive early victory, but Biden said he was confident he was on track to winning the White House by taking three key Rust Belt states.
Biden, 77, was eyeing the so-called “blue wall” states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that sent Trump, 74, to the White House in 2016 for victories once those states finish counting votes in hours or days to come. Trump was ahead in all three states in partial counts, with Democratic mail-in ballots still to be tallied.
“We feel good about where we are,” Biden said in his home state of Delaware, shouting over a din of supporters in cars honking their horns in approval. “We believe we’re on track to win this election.”
Winning those three states would be enough to give Biden an Electoral College victory. Fox News projected Biden would win Arizona, another state that voted for Trump in 2016, giving him more options to get to 270 Electoral College votes.
Biden leads 220 to 213 over Trump in the fight for 270 Electoral College votes, according to Edison Research.
Even without Pennsylvania, Biden victories in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, along with his projected win in a congressional district in Nebraska, which apportions electoral votes by district, would put him in the White House, as long as he also holds the states that Trump lost in 2016.
Biden also leads in Nevada, a state Trump lost in 2016, while Trump leads in Georgia, a state he carried easily in 2016, but votes are still being counted.
‘WE ARE UP BIG’
“We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!” Trump said on Twitter before his White House appearance, which swiftly tagged the tweet as possibly misleading.
“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare the winner of this election. It’s the voters’ place,” Biden said on Twitter in response to the president.
Trump has repeatedly and without evidence suggested an increase in mail-in voting will lead to an increase in fraud, although election experts say that fraud is rare and mail-in ballots are a long-standing feature of American elections.
In Pennsylvania, Democratic Governor Tom Wolf said the state still had to count more than a million mail-in ballots. He called Trump’s remarks a partisan attack. According to Edison Research, more than 2.4 million early ballots were cast in the state, of which nearly 1.6 million were by Democrats and about 555,000 by Republicans.
Supporters of both candidates called the election a referendum on Trump and his tumultuous first term. The winner will lead a nation strained by a pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 people and left millions more jobless, racial tensions and political polarization that has only worsened during a vitriolic campaign.
Trump monitored election returns with members of his family in the living room of the White House residence. Going in and out of the room were first lady Melania Trump, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka among others. “He’s calm, chilling,” said a source familiar with the scene.
Voters were also to decide which political party controls the US Congress for the next two years, and the Democratic drive to win control of the Senate appeared to fall short.
Democrats picked up only one Republican-held seat while six other races remained undecided – Alaska, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina and two in Georgia.