Biden Has Presidency in Reach After Gains in Pennsylvania
WASHINGTON— Former Vice President Joe Biden had the presidency within his reach Friday evening, as he continued to hold onto narrow but apparently solid leads over President Donald Trump in the critical battlegrounds of Georgia and Pennsylvania.
Revised vote counts trickled in throughout the day, but with each passing hour, Biden drew ever closer to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to take the White House.
A win in Pennsylvania alone would give him the presidency.
Even if he lost there, some combination of victories in the states where votes were still being counted — including Arizona and Nevada, where Biden also leads — would still result in a victory for the Democrat.
Biden addressed the nation Friday night near his home in Wilmington, Delaware, admitting the slow pace of the vote count “can be numbing.”
But, he said, it’s important to remember “the tallies aren’t just numbers: they represent votes and voters.”
Standing alongside his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, and against a backdrop of flags, Biden wasn’t able to give the acceptance speech aides had hinted at.
But he expressed confidence that victory ultimately would be his, saying, “The numbers tell us a clear and convincing story: We’re going to win this race.”
Biden also renewed his call for unity in an obviously divided nation.
“We have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total unrelenting, unending warfare,” he said. “No, the purpose of our politics, the work of our nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to give everybody a fair shot.”
While all this was going on, the current occupant of the White House was largely quiet, a change from recent days, save for some tweets Friday, with no events on his public schedule.
Since Election Day, President Donald Trump has mostly blustered, claiming he’d already won, while also trying to undermine confidence in the election.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” Trump said. “If you count the illegal votes … well …. they can try to steal the election from us.”
“I’ve already decisively won many critical states, including massive victories in Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, to name just a few. We won these and many other victories despite historic election interference from big media, big money, and big tech,” he added.
On Thursday, Trump advanced a series of unsupported accusations of voter fraud to falsely argue that Biden was trying to seize power.
“This is a case when they are trying to steal an election, they are trying to rig an election,” Trump said from the podium of the White House briefing room.
So erratic were some of the president’s statements that he actually urged that the counting be stopped, a move, which at the time, would have had the effect of leaving Biden as president-elect.
Throughout the day Friday, the Trump campaign worked methodically on a raft of legal challenges it plans to file in a number of battleground states.
The campaign has already lost two lawsuits in Georgia and Michigan, but it is continuing to press challenges in Pennsylvania and it has signaled it will do the same in Nevada.
Biden attorney Bob Bauer said the suits in Georgia and Michigan, which were dismissed out of hand, were legally “meritless.”
Their only purpose, he said “is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what’s taking place in the electoral process.”
Most legal observers say even if the Trump team were to prevail in any of their lawsuits, it is highly unlikely they’d find enough votes or have enough votes tossed from Biden to make a difference.
The campaign issued a statement attributed to Trump on Friday in which the president called for “full transparency into all vote counting and election certification,” adding “this is no longer about any single election.”
“We will pursue this process through every aspect of the law to guarantee that the American people have confidence in our government,” Trump said. “I will never give up fighting for you and our nation.”
But the mood as a whole was said to be shifting in the White House.
Immediately after Election Day, staff in the West Wing were told not to worry, Trump would surely be declared the winner of the presidential contest by Friday. When it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, the atmosphere inside the building darkened.
While some staffers, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows sought to reassure the president, other, lower level members of the staff, reportedly began preparing and sending out resumes.
There was also said to be widespread talk about who will ultimately have to sit the president down and get him to accept his defeat. Names suggested included first lady Melania Trump, the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Biden Asks for Calm
The real focus on Friday was on the as-yet uncounted ballots in Pennsylvania and, to a lesser extent Georgia, both of which had swung into Biden’s column in the early morning hours.
The prolonged counting process, with each state following its own processes, added to the anxiety of a nation whose racial and cultural divides were inflamed during the campaign.
Biden meanwhile was trying to ease tensions.
“I ask everyone to stay calm. The process is working,” he said. “It is the will of the voters. No one, not anyone else who chooses the president of the United States of America.”
One group that wasn’t heeding that message Friday were members of the Republican party.
The question facing all of them is whether to stand with the president who still commands considerable approval among the GOP base — he did get more than 70 million votes this year, far surpassing his total haul in 2016 — or to break with him, perhaps hastening the end of the Trump era.
Among those in the latter group is Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, already seen as a potential 2024 presidential candidate who has often criticized Trump in the past.
“There is no defense for the president’s comments … undermining our Democratic process. America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before,” Hogan said.
Then there was Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who stood by his state on Friday, telling reporters, “I am not aware of any significant fraud, any significant wrongdoing,” related to the vote.
Perhaps most surprising were the comments of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, an informal advisor to the president, who suggested during a televised interview that Trump needs to back up his claims with evidence of some kind.
“This kind of thing, all it does is inflame without informing,” Christie said. “And we cannot permit inflammation without information.”
Others were not backing down.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., continued to insist as recently as Thursday that “President Trump won this election.”
And Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee said “It’s funny that we rush to judgment, we want to get this election over with, but if there is election fraud, which everyone accuses or says there wasn’t, or if there were these irregularities, we need to pursue them.”
Others continued to try to take a middle ground.
“Here’s how this must work in our great country,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Twitter Friday morning. “Every legal vote should be counted. Any illegally-submitted ballots must not. All sides must get to observe the process. And the courts are here to apply the laws and resolve disputest.”
The same sentiment was expressed by Ivanka Trump.
“Every legally cast vote should be counted. Every illegally cast vote should not. This should not be controversial,” she said. “This is not a partisan statement — free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy.”
The word in and around the White House is that the president is very unlikely to formally concede the election, in the coming days or ever.
But aides have repeatedly tamped down on fears that he would force a confrontation by defiantly refusing to leave.
“This is the greatest democracy in the world, and we abide by the rule of law. And so will this president,” said Larry Kudlow, an economic advisor to the president, in an interview with CNBC Friday morning.
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