Democratic nominee Joe Biden addressed the nation Friday, after his growing lead in the presidential election’s key battleground states appeared to have placed him on the verge of victory.
"The numbers tell us a clear and convincing story: We're going to win this race," Biden said in remarks delivered from inside the Chase Center in Wilmington, Del.
Biden’s speech had a touch of an anticlimactic feel. When it was scheduled earlier in the day, speculation mounted that it could become a victory speech and might follow a potential race call by the Associated Press or major media outlets. But at the time he spoke, the race remained too close to call.
The former vice president nevertheless took the opportunity to project confidence in the ultimate outcome of the contest.
"What is becoming clearer each hour is that record numbers of Americans, from all races, faiths, regions, chose change over more of the same,” he said.
Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Biden’s running mate, was reportedly expected to join him in the announcement. But although she joined him onstage, she did not speak, and Biden kept his remarks short.
Early Friday morning, Biden overcame Trump’s lead in two key states — Pennsylvania and Georgia — as more results from early and mail-in ballots were added to the totals. In the absence of a final call, which could come within hours, Biden noted that he had fulfilled his campaign promise to rebuild the Democratic firewall in the states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, which Trump had won in 2016.
“We've rebuilt the Blue Wall across this country that crumbled just four years ago,” Biden said in reference to his wins in those three states.
The remarks came as the race appeared to be quickly slipping away from Trump. As votes continued to be counted in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, Biden held a lead in all of them. The Associated Press and Fox had already called Arizona for Biden; any of the remaining three states would put the Democrat over the 270 Electoral College votes needed to secure the presidency. (Other media outlets have yet to call Arizona.)
But ahead of Biden’s speech in Wilmington, President Trump made clear that he would not be conceding defeat in the race anytime soon.
“Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President!” Trump tweeted. “I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!”
Early on Wednesday, several hours after the polls closed, Trump made an appearance and declared he had already won the election.
"We will win this, and as far as I'm concerned, we already have,” he told supporters in the East Room of the White House.
On Thursday, Trump repeated that claim and baselessly alleged a conspiracy between Democrats, the media, pollsters and state election officials to keep him from being reelected.
“Our numbers started miraculously getting whittled away, in secret,” he said, without providing any evidence to back up that explosive assertion. “This is a case where they’re trying to steal an election. They’re trying to rig an election. And we can’t let that happen.”
Trump’s speech drew sharp rebukes from Republicans and Democrats alike, many of whom accused him of undermining the trust of the American public in the institution of voting.
On Friday afternoon, Trump released a statement that was far more restrained than the one he read to reporters Thursday.
“We believe the American people deserve to have full transparency into all vote counting and election certification, and that this is no longer about any single election,” he said in the statement. “This is about the integrity of our entire election process. From the beginning we have said that all legal ballots must be counted and all illegal ballots should not be counted, yet we have met resistance to this basic principle by Democrats at every turn. We will pursue this process through every aspect of the law to guarantee that the American people have confidence in our government. I will never give up fighting for you and our nation.”
On Friday, Biden made it clear that he would not sit by idly while Trump mounted an attempt to keep him from the White House.
“Democracy works. Your vote will be counted. I don’t care who tries to stop it, I will not let it happen,” Biden said. “The people will be heard. Our journey is towards a more perfect union, and we keep moving on.”
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