The picture of the presidential race is clearer even as crucial swing states are still counting ballots

By Sam Gillette and Virginia Chamlee
November 04, 2020 03:35 PM
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The Associated Press projected Wednesday that Joe Biden would win Michigan and Wisconsin over President Donald Trump — making the picture of the presidential race clearer even as crucial swing states are still counting ballots.

The Trump campaign has said it will request a recount in Wisconsin given the slim difference: Biden's margin over Trump was some 20,000 votes with 99 percent of the vote tallied as of Wednesday, according to the AP.

(For context, a recount of the 2016 race between Trump, 77, and Hillary Clinton only adjusted the total about 130 votes toward Trump, according to The New York Times.)

Scott Walker, the last Republican governor of Wisconsin, noted on Twitter that the deficit was "a high hurdle" given the track record of some previous recounts, though he also wrote in support of the move.

Biden flipping Michigan and its 16 electoral votes and Wisconsin with its 10 votes, after Trump narrowly earned them both in his 2016 win over Clinton, significantly bolsters his path to an ultimate victory.

The president's campaign quickly said it planned to file a lawsuit in attempt to stop Michigan's ongoing count, claiming without evidence that Republican officials weren't granted appropriate access to monitoring the process.

“It is very unlikely that the efforts will be successful or even slow down the counting of ballots,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine tells PEOPLE.

The results from another Midwest state, Pennsylvania, was not yet known Wednesday afternoon, though Biden trailed but hoped to make up the difference as metro-area mail votes were counted, with about 12 percent of the voting outstanding.

The president's win in Wisconsin four years ago was by a similarly slim number as Biden's this year, less than 1 percent, making Trump the first Republican to win in a presidential race there since 1984, according to the Times.

Trump's camp was also reportedly preparing to legally challenge the Pennsylvania results, once Biden's team began to anticipate a victory there too, per the paper.

Biden's victory in the Midwest and in Arizona and Nevada, where he similarly led, would secure him the presidency in what has been a bitterly fought race in an unprecedented year.

Donald Trump; Joe Biden
President Donald Trump (left) and former Vice President Joe Biden
| Credit: Shutterstock; Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The delay in getting the final vote count isn't surprising. With the threat of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many Americans decided to go to the polls early or vote by absentee ballot. The historic number of early voting and mail-in ballots has slowed down the counting process, as have the rules governing different states.

While the majority of states allow advance processing for early ballots, some — including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — did not begin counting early votes until the morning of Election Day, leading to potential delays that stretch past Tuesday. Two recent Supreme Court decisions, which Trump, 74, criticized, also meant that absentee votes in some states would be accepted after Election Day as long as they were postmarked by then, adding yet another wrinkle in counting results.

Historically the winner isn't always called on election night. But tensions in the U.S. have been heightened because of false and misleading claims made by President Trump, which he repeated in a brief speech from the White House early Wednesday — falsely insisting he had won despite millions of votes still being counted.

His threat to legally challenge votes that were legally counted after Election Day — an astounding move — was labeled by Biden's campaign manager as "outrageous, unprecedented and incorrect."

In a starkly different tone, Biden, 77, addressed voters early Wednesday morning and asked them to be patient as votes are counted.

He also shared that he felt good about his standing in Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan and predicted a win in Pennsylvania.

By Wednesday afternoon, the former vice president broke the record set by former President Barack Obama for most popular votes, with more than 70 million.