Several major news outlets on Saturday projected former Vice President Joe Biden to have won a prolonged presidential election, even as ballot counting and litigation continue.
President Donald Trump has not conceded the contest, and his campaign team note pending legal challenges across several closely contested states.
“The simple fact is this election is far from over,” Trump said in a statement. “Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone any of the highly contested states headed for mandatory recounts, or states where our campaign has valid and legitimate legal challenges that could determine the ultimate victor.”
The Associated Press put Pennsylvania in Biden’s column shortly before noon Saturday, an unofficial call that boosted the former vice president past the 270 electoral votes necessary to wrest the White House from Trump.
Other outlets, including Fox News, CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC, The New York Times and The Washington Post followed suit, projecting Biden would become the nation’s 46th president.
“America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country,” Biden tweeted shortly afterward. “The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a president for all Americans—whether you voted for me or not. I will keep the faith that you have placed in me.”
Biden, who was to address the nation for the second night in a row Saturday night, also held a lead of more than 4 million in the country’s popular vote in unofficial results.
As Biden, who turns 78 on Nov. 20, is poised to become the oldest president in American history, his win caps a five-decade political career that escalated in 1973 when he became one of the youngest members of the U.S. Senate.
Trump’s legal team will be in court “prosecuting” his case in civil suits, the president said in a statement after the major media outlets projected Biden as the winner.
“Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated,” Trump said, adding:
The American people are entitled to an honest election: that means counting all legal ballots, and not counting any illegal ballots. This is the only way to ensure the public has full confidence in our election. It remains shocking that the Biden campaign refuses to agree with this basic principle and wants ballots counted even if they are fraudulent, manufactured, or cast by ineligible or deceased voters. Only a party engaged in wrongdoing would unlawfully keep observers out of the count room–and then fight in court to block their access.
Biden had more than 74 million votes to Trump’s more than 70 million votes, the Associated Press reported, in historic turnout including an unprecedented number of mailed ballots allowed by states because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to unofficial results after most of the mail-in vote was counted, the Biden-Harris ticket flipped states that at first appeared to have gone to Trump and Pence.
Biden appeared to pick up the one-time GOP strongholds of Georgia and Arizona while claiming Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin–traditional Democratic states that were key to Trump’s victory four years ago.
Biden also was ahead in Nevada, while Trump continued to lead in Alaska and North Carolina.
However, because of apparent or alleged irregularities, the results in several states are in court. Given the closeness of the election, vote tallies could change.
If he surmounts these challenges, Biden will become the 15th former vice president to become president when he takes office Jan. 20.
Trump will become the first one-term president since George H.W. Bush, a fellow Republican, who lost his re-election bid in 1992.
The elder Bush was the last vice president to ascend to the White House, which, unlike Biden, he won while still holding that office.
Heritage Foundation President Kay C. James counseled patience until appropriate officials address questions about the election returns.
“The American people deserve and demand election results they can trust. When litigation in critical battleground states has been settled and all allegations of fraud and irregularities have been investigated, that’s what they will have,” James said in a tweeted statement, adding:
Unfortunately, we are not there yet. Recounts and pending litigation must be resolved to the satisfaction of the political parties and the Americans who support them and voted for them.
Election integrity is a pillar of our republic, and without it, we won’t last. For the sake of this election and all of the subsequent elections in generations to come, we must come to a legitimate conclusion.
Anyone rushing to the finish—including the media and those with a vested interest in one outcome—are doing a disservice to the country. Like Vice President Biden has said, democracy ‘sometimes requires a little patience.’
Running on a return-to-normal campaign against the sometimes chaotic and blunt-spoken governing style of Trump, Biden led in polls through most of the year, but the surveys tightened significantly closer to the election.
Biden’s victory came a week after revelations that the FBI is investigating his son, Hunter Biden, and unnamed business associates in connection with their joint venture with a Chinese energy conglomerate linked to China’s communist government.
Surveys consistently showed that most voters trusted Biden more than Trump to address the COVID-19 pandemic, which to date has killed about 237,000 Americans this year.
Before the pandemic struck, Trump seemed to be headed to re-election based on a strong economy. Despite his surviving a Democrat-led House impeachment and never getting above 50% in most polling, Trump’s policies generally were popular.
However, a pandemic originating in China became an all-consuming issue for 2020 and the most potent weapon for Biden and Democrats with which to bludgeon the president.
In part because of the pandemic, Biden conducted much of his campaign from the basement of his home in Delaware, speaking about campaign matters in videos, holding virtual town halls and fundraising events, and almost never talking to journalists.
Trump, meanwhile, presided at enormous rallies drawing tens of thousands, held numerous press conferences and gaggles and granted many interviews. In the closing days, Biden held some rallies, but not at the same pace as Trump and with far smaller crowds.
The contrast was somewhat similar to 100 years ago, Democratic presidential nominee James Cox gave 400 campaign speeches at rallies across the country while Republican nominee Warren Harding—campaigning on a “return to normalcy”—conducted a front-porch campaign in 1920 from his home in Marion, Ohio.
Biden’s path to the Democratic nomination was not easy, despite his having served two terms as vice president under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017 and entering the race as a front-runner.
Harris, the California senator who would become Biden’s running mate, was particularly tough on the former vice president in the first primary debate. She left the Democratic primary race Dec. 3, months before the first votes were cast in Iowa.
Biden came in fourth place in the Feb. 3 Iowa caucuses, which were won by Pete Buttigieg, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Biden finished in fifth place Feb. 11 in the New Hampshire primary, which was won by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist from neighboring Vermont. Sanders followed with a victory in the Nevada caucuses Feb. 22.
Under do-or-die circumstances, Biden came roaring back in South Carolina’s Democratic primary Feb. 29, beating Sanders by about 30 points.
After that, much of the large Democratic field dropped out and endorsed Biden. The former vice president followed up by winning 10 of 14 states on Super Tuesday, March 13, and cruised to his party’s nomination from there.
Biden entered the national political scene by running at age 29 for one of Delaware’s two seats in the Senate in 1972. His only previous political experience was as a member of the New Castle County Council for two years.
His Senate career was marked by his chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where he employed aggressive tactics to defeat President Ronald Reagan’s 1987 nomination of federal Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
Biden launched his first presidential campaign for the 1988 Democratic nomination. However, he dropped out before the first primary votes amid a plagiarism scandal.
Biden, by then chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ran again for president 20 years later. He dropped out after a poor showing in the 2008 Iowa caucuses.
Obama, after a drawn-out primary battle with former first lady and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, won the Democratic presidential nomination and tapped Biden as his running mate. The two won the 2008 election by defeating the Republican ticket of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Obama and Biden were re-elected in 2012, defeating the GOP ticket of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.