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The election might be too close to call for days

Daniel Bentley –

Close contests in five key states mean the U.S. presidential election may not be decided for days, or longer, even as President Donald Trump’s falsely claimed victory over Democrat Joe Biden with millions of ballots still to be counted.

As of 6 a.m. New York time Wednesday, Biden had 238 electoral votes while Trump had 213, leaving both shy of the 270 needed to secure immediate victories.

In a middle of the night speech from the White House, Trump threatened to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene to stop what he called the disenfranchisement of Republican voters, without offering evidence that any wrongdoing had occurred.

“Frankly, we did win this election,” he said, noting that he held a lead in a number of states whose results were still uncertain. “So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”

It wasn’t immediately clear what Trump meant, as states including Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia and Nevada were counting legally cast votes. It is routine for states to continue counting votes after Election Day, and Pennsylvania said results likely wouldn’t be finalized for several days.

Treasuries jumped with the dollar as traders bet the prospect of divided government would make it harder to pass fresh stimulus. Futures on the S&P 500 Index posted a gain in volatile trading.

The unusually large number of absentee ballots cast due to the coronavirus pandemic meant counting wasn’t complete. The unresolved outcome risks stoking tensions further in the U.S., beset by an economic downturn and the raging virus.

Despite the president’s claims, Biden ended Election Day with a strong chance of unseating the incumbent. A Biden win in the battleground state of Arizona — which Trump carried in 2016 — opened up a number of pathways to clinch a majority of Electoral College votes, primarily through Rust Belt states where both campaigns fought hard.

Trump tried to create doubt about the legitimacy of the vote count early Wednesday after spending weeks warning without evidence of ballot tampering that would favor the former vice president. Trump’s comments drew criticism from Biden’s campaign and at least one of the president’s allies.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a close Trump ally, told ABC News he disagreed with Trump’s remarks about the election results and said, “There’s just no basis to make that argument tonight. There just isn’t.”

Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, said in a statement that Trump’s remarks were “outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect” and “a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.”

Earlier, Biden told supporters sitting in cars outside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware, that he was “on track to win this election” and urged his supporters to be patient as they waited for the ballots to be counted.

The Associated Press, relied on by many news organizations for election calls, said in a statement that it “is not calling the presidential race yet because neither candidate has secured the 270 electoral college votes needed to claim victory.”

Both men still have paths to victory, though it appears that Biden has more options than Trump does. Trump needs at least four of the following states to pass 270 electoral votes: Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. He won them all in 2016.

If Biden wins any two of Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia, he’ll win.

Biden edged to a small lead in Wisconsin, up almost 21,000 votes, as returns from Green Bay and Kenosha were added to the total.

Biden was only down by about 13,500 votes overall in Michigan with a sizable number of absentee ballots left to count. In Nevada, where tallying was halted until Thursday, Biden was clinging to a lead of almost 8,000 votes.

There were few surprises among states where the AP announced winners, with Republican and Democratic states generally falling in line, despite expectations for several upsets. The only other Electoral College vote to flip so far, besides in Arizona, came from a congressional district in Nebraska that backed Biden after favoring Trump in 2016.

Trump won Florida, a crucial prize in the race to the White House that closed off Biden’s hopes for an early knockout in the election. The president also won Texas, which Democrats had hoped might turn blue and entirely reshape the electoral map.

Trump significantly outperformed in one of Florida’s most populous counties, Miami-Dade. After losing the county four years ago by 29 points, he lost by less than 8 to Biden.

The county is diverse, with large Cuban and Venezuelan populations Trump has courted by raising diplomatic and economic pressure on the socialist regimes in those countries. He accused Biden of sharing the regimes’ politics.

Trump won Ohio and Biden won Minnesota, states that each candidate had sought to take from the other but wound up politically unchanged from 2016.

Ohio was the first of several battleground states decided in the race.

Biden carried Minnesota even though Trump held multiple campaign rallies in a state he narrowly lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. But Biden’s strength in the urban parts of the state kept it in the Democratic column.

Trump holds small leads in North Carolina and Georgia, though there are votes outstanding in each. Trump won both states in 2016.

In addition, Biden won Nebraska’s second congressional district, Minnesota, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, New York, Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Delaware, District of Columbia and New Hampshire, according to the AP.

Trump won Nebraska’s other four Electoral College votes, Ohio, Florida, Texas, Iowa, Idaho, Kansas, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Missouri.

Nebraska is one of only two states, with Maine, that award an Electoral College vote to the winner of each congressional district. Trump won two districts and Biden won one. Trump won the state overall, giving him Nebraska’s two remaining Electoral College votes.

Maine’s second congressional district remained too close to call.

Even if Democrats yet claim the White House, a “blue wave” they hoped would also give them control of both chambers of Congress may fall short.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, was re-elected, the AP said. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, was re-elected despite a Democratic challenger who badly out-raised him, and Senator Doug Jones, an Alabama Democrat, was defeated by Republican Tommy Tuberville.

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, defeated Senator Cory Gardner, giving his party one pickup. Other contested Senate seats remain undecided.

Biden is winning over Latino and African-American voters in numbers similar to Clinton four years ago, and is narrowing Trump’s margin among White voters, early exit polls from the AP show.

Trump had a 12-point lead among White voters in Tuesday’s election. Network exit polls four years ago showed him with a 20-point advantage among those voters. Biden led among Latino voters 30 points, Black voters by 82 points, and women by 12 points.

(Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, provided $100 million in support of Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris in Florida, half of that from his Independence USA PAC.)

More politics coverage from Fortune:

  • USPS update: The latest on how absentee ballots are being counted in swing states
  • Biden’s Arizona win makes Pennsylvania less crucial
  • Uber, Lyft, and gig companies win big after Prop 22 passes in California
  • This nail-biter election generated the highest U.S. voter turnout rate in 120 years
  • How Trump can and can’t use the courts to shape the election

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