(CN) — Hardly unexpected but nonetheless unsatisfying to the boisterous incumbent president and those hoping for a clear result, Election Night came and went Tuesday without a winner due to a collection of uncalled battleground states flooded with a historic haul of mail ballots.
With major counties experiencing record early in-person voting and millions of ballots left uncounted, the race for the White House has boiled down to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona.
President Donald Trump was predictably peeved by the lack of a call by the major networks and took to Twitter early Wednesday to baselessly claim the election was corrupt.
“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 vented in a vague, archetypal incendiary tweet.
Twitter was quick to add a warning to the initially misspelled tweet, saying it could contain false information.
He took to the stage early Wednesday morning and vowed to take the election results to the Supreme Court. The president claimed falsely and without evidence that there had been election fraud and equated votes being counted after polls closed — a standard election practice — as fraudulent late votes.
“Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it,” Trump said in front of family, staffers and Vice President Mike Pence.
“The citizens of this county have come out in record numbers to support our incredible movement,” Trump said. “They are never going to catch up.”
Pence attempted to temper the president’s comments, noting the long process of counting millions of ballots is ongoing.
Acknowledging the nationwide race is too close to call on Election Night, former vice president Joe Biden offered a more optimistic message and gave a vote of confidence in the election process. Biden assured his supporters in an address carried nationwide that despite trailing in the pending states, the campaign is still on track.
“We feel good about where we are, we really do,” Biden said in a brief speech. “We’re going to have to be patient until the hard work of tallying votes is finished. It ain’t over until every vote is counted.”
With a global pandemic and biting recession as a backdrop, the 2020 election has been nothing like previous races featuring presidents seeking reelection.
Instead of a tame, colorless race controlled by the incumbent, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have sparked a record-setting early run on the polls. Interest in the race skyrocketed this fall with over 100 million early votes cast nationwide and several states surpassed their 2016 vote totals ahead of Election Day.
Adding another element to an already volatile 2020 election cycle, Trump’s campaign has indicated it may sue to get mail ballots cast before but counted after Election Night tossed out.
“The Election should end on November 3rd., not weeks later!” Trump said last week on Twitter.
Trump’s assertion ignores the fact no state is legally required to finalize election results on Election Day nor does it account for the fact that a timely winner wasn’t declared in several modern elections, such as George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000, Richard Nixon over Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and John F. Kennedy over Nixon in 1960.
As it turns out, Trump will get the opportunity to make good on his repeated threats after a back-and-forth Election Night.
After a tense start for the president in which Biden jumped ahead in critical areas like Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Trump rebounded in each of the coveted states.
In what would be the first major domino to fall, Decision Desk called Florida for Trump.
The outcome in Florida could mean an early indication that Trump will stay in the White House or a drawn out process that could extend for days.
Raphael J. Sonenshein of California State University, Los Angeles, told Courthouse News the Sunshine State was always a stretch for Biden, especially after the Trump campaign launched accusations of socialist politics against the former Vice President.
“The Democrats were hoping for a sweeping victory in Florida but it looks like now there will be trench warfare,” said Sonenshein. “Florida is a lock that has been so hard to pick for Democrats.”
At 10:30 p.m., according to Decision Desk, Trump was leading in each of the battleground states along with Wisconsin and Michigan.
Trump continued to sweep through the South, racking up victories in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, along with victories to the west in Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska.
“WE ARE LOOKING REALLY GOOD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. THANK YOU!,” the president said in a tweet.
For the second consecutive election Trump will also carry Missouri and its 10 electoral votes, along with Tennessee (11) and Oklahoma (7).
Biden countered with his first major win of the night in Virginia and backed it up with expected victories in Illinois, Massachusetts and Vermont. The Democratic challenger would go on to take New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut to round out his successful East Coast swing.
“Stay in line, folks,” Biden urged his supporters on Twitter.
Behind only California in potential electoral votes, losing Texas would have sabotaged Trump’s re-election chances. But after a brief scare, Trump has pushed his advantage to nearly 700,000 votes, causing prognosticators to paint the Lone Star State red once again.
Further signaling a change in momentum, the president also grabbed a 1% lead in North Carolina with over 90% of the estimated vote counted. The Tar Heel State has voted Democratic just twice since 1976.
With the election map beginning to resemble 2016, Raphael said the Biden campaign would look west for encouragement.
“A win in Arizona would also give Democrats their first breach of the sunbelt states,” said Sonenshein, executive director of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs. That’s a more realistic get [than Texas].”
As of 1:30 a.m. Eastern, Biden holds a 52-46% lead in Arizona with 78% of the expected vote in. Biden was able to scoop up a bag of electoral votes when California, Oregon and Washington State were called less than 10 minutes after their polls closed.
The West Coast romp vaulted Biden into the electoral lead as the Democratic nominee also picked up New Mexico. As Election Night rolled into Wednesday, Biden was up in the electoral count after securing Minnesota by a 225-213 advantage.
Fred Smoller, political scientist at Chapman University in California, told Courthouse News that if no clear victory is visible from Tuesday’s results, the final leg of the presidential race may play out in court.
Biden would have needed to create a massive gap between himself and Trump in total electoral vote counts and overall points in the popular vote to avoid a legal showdown.
“Trump’s lawyers and Biden’s lawyers will fight tooth and nail in every place they can,” Smoller said, adding that an early victory declaration by Trump could also backfire, angering states that haven’t yet counted all votes.
“I think we’re going to be in for a long evening it seems to me,” Smoller added.
With neither candidate able to flip a 2016 result by night’s end, the nation will wake up on edge as the final votes are counted in the pending battleground states.
“We are walking right into the nightmarish scenario of counting ballots for weeks to determine the outcome of the presidency, and this is an extended vote count drama that I’m absolutely not interested in,” said Paul Mitchell on Twitter, vice president of Political Data Inc.