WITH results in so far from yesterday’s election, some complete and some partial, it’s clear that the outcome will be tight and either Donald Trump or Joe Biden can still become the next president though it may be days before a winner is declared.
Trump claimed victory at an early morning White House press conference, citing states such as North Carolina and Georgia that have not announced their full results and said he was heading to the Supreme Court to challenge late voting.
‘This is a major fraud on the nation and we are going to the Supreme Court. We want voting to stop . . . we will win this election and as far as I am concerned we have won it,’ he said.
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon responded: ‘The counting will not stop. It will continue until every duly cast vote is counted. Because that is what our laws – the laws that protect every American’s constitutional right to vote – require.’ She called Trump’s comments ‘a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens’.
Trump can say what he likes, however. Democrats will fight him in court and still have a good chance of reaching the 270 electoral college votes Biden needs to win.
The Washington Post immediately said Trump’s victory claim, based on states that were still counting, was false and quoted an earlier Biden insistence that ‘It ain’t over till every vote is counted.’
As of this writing, Democratic nominee Joe Biden led by 232 college votes to President Donald Trump’s 213 but both of these figures will shift as the states report turn by turn or the courts decide.
Florida, always a key state, was called early on for Trump but Biden won Arizona where thousands of Democrats fleeing ultra-liberal southern California have brought their politics with them. Trump lost Minnesota which he had hoped to capture after the widespread violence that followed the death of George Floyd while being arrested by police.
Trump said Arizona was among the states where his lawyer would fight the result.
The lead of up to 14 per cent attributed to Biden by the polls appears to have evaporated in the voting booths and television analysts maintained their view that Pennsylvania would provide the key to the election.
A post-mortem on the polls has already begun. Trump leads by a hefty margin of some 20 per cent in Pennsylvania and he sounded confident of winning but only 60 per cent of the millions of votes have been counted and the rest are not expected to be tallied completely for several days, all but guaranteeing a suspenseful week.
Some analysts said Biden’s win in Arizona, if upheld, could make Pennsylvania less important to getting Biden into the White House.
National exit polls offered no clear guide to the outcome but provided an interesting glimpse of what preoccupied voters. They ranked by percentage as follows: economy 34; race 21; coronavirus 18; crime; healthcare 11.
Democrats built their campaign around Trump’s alleged racism and incompetence in managing Covid and the resulting economic collapse. At the same time they staked a lot on continuing lockdowns while Trump urged states to reopen their economies.
Trump may have received a late boost from third quarter GDP results at the end of October which showed a healthy rebound in the economy.
Covid was a lesser issue than expected despite a second wave across America with the onset of colder weather. Trump promised a vaccine by the end of the year during his campaign.
Democrats are insisting that every vote be counted even though some states, who all have their own rules, are accepting mailed votes up to three days after November 3.
Trump’s lawyers will argue in court that the official deadline should be observed.
More than 100million Americans voted early, many of them by mail and counting of these, a massive task, did not begin in some jurisdictions until the in-person polls closed.
The Supreme Court decided the 2000 presidential election in favour of George W Bush after a disputed count in several Florida counties.
Democrats are demanding that newly-appointed conservative Supreme Court justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was nominated by Trump, should recuse herself from any hearing of challenges to the vote. If she did, the court would be split 5-3 with a greater chance of being sympathetic to Democrats. Chief justice John Roberts, although a Republican nominee, has sided with liberals on some political issues.
In cases where the court divides evenly, the decisions of the lower courts stand. Pennsylvania’s courts are under Democratic control.
Republicans pushed back saying there was no legal or constitutional need for Barrett not to take part in the Supreme Court proceedings.
Whether he wins or loses, Trump outperformed the polls. He won big with Latinos in Florida despite his opposition to southern immigration.
In the race for the Senate, Republicans are ahead 47 to 45 and tipped to keep a small majority under their leader Mitch McConnell who won re-election. Republican control of the Senate will be a substantial brake on the Democrats’ plans for the future even if Biden wins.
Democrats had a 180-173 lead in the race for the House of Representatives which they already control. Democratic winners included the controversial young New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasia-Cortes who has been influential in pushing the party leftwards.