NEW YORK (NYTIMES) – Mr Joe Biden has moved much closer to the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the White House with victories in Wisconsin and Michigan on Wednesday (Nov 4), leaving President Donald Trump largely playing defence on a shrinking, if still viable, battleground map.
Mr Trump’s path, as of late Wednesday, centred on his winning Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes – in conjunction with other scenarios that involve holding Georgia, erasing Mr Biden’s lead in Arizona and flipping Nevada, the shakiest state in Mr Biden’s map.
On Tuesday night, Mr Biden’s team watched nervously as the campaign’s what-if states – Florida, Ohio, Texas and North Carolina – quickly broke for the president.
But by early Wednesday, it was the former vice-president, not the current president, who went on offence, gathering momentum in his effort to recapture Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, once reliable “blue wall” states.
By Wednesday afternoon, The Associated Press had declared Mr Biden the winner in both Wisconsin and Michigan as Democratic areas of those states began reporting more results.
With those victories, Mr Biden now has two clear and plausible paths to victory: He could win Pennsylvania, a state that seemed to be swinging to his advantage as the count of early and mail-in balloting began.
Or, if he holds on in Nevada, he could take Arizona – which has already been declared a Biden victory by some news organisations even though hundreds of thousands of votes remain to be counted.
Mr Biden even has a third path, less likely than the other two, but still viable: winning both Nevada and Georgia, where an influx of mail-in ballots from Atlanta and its suburbs cut into what seemed like an insurmountable Mr Trump lead late Wednesday.
If he were to pick up either Arizona or Georgia along with Nevada, winning Pennsylvania would be unnecessary.
In a call with reporters early Wednesday, Mr Biden’s team expressed confidence that the former vice-president would win by taking the “easy” path, along the old “blue wall” in the Midwest and Appalachia.
That had seemed less plausible late Tuesday, when Mr Trump jumped out to a 700,000-vote lead in Pennsylvania.
But many ballots remained to be counted, and absentee voting in particular was expected to favour Mr Biden because many Democratic voters made use of mail balloting during the coronavirus pandemic.
Republicans are expressing confidence Mr Trump will ultimately prevail in Arizona, but Mr Biden retained a slim edge there, and the president’s aides privately conceded that a Mr Biden win there would deal a devastating blow to their chances of winning nationwide.
A Mr Biden victory in Arizona, coupled with a win in Nevada, would put him at precisely 270 electoral votes – sans Pennsylvania.
“Joe Biden’s path is largely unchanged since he entered this race,” Mr Guy Cecil, chair of Priorities USA, a leading Democratic super political action committee, said early Wednesday.
“There are still at least five competitive states giving him multiple paths to 270. It may take a couple of days to count the votes, and we may need to fight the Trump campaign in court, but Joe Biden remains the favourite.”
Mr Trump’s victories in Florida, Ohio and Texas did not create a new path for him so much as close off new shortcuts by which Mr Biden could have claimed victory on Election Day. His last chance for a flip is Nevada, another tight race, but one in which most of the uncounted votes are generally expected to favour Mr Biden.
Otherwise, Mr Trump’s path to winning a second term probably depends on holding onto Pennsylvania, which he narrowly won in 2016; retaining Georgia and North Carolina; and winning either Arizona or Nevada.
“Trump’s path is exactly the same as it was in 2016,” said Mr Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who is a veteran of Senator Marco Rubio’s campaigns. “He needs to overperform in some traditionally blue states. Trump wins when the voters Democrats take for granted no longer reliably vote for Democrats.”
In Nebraska – one of two states, along with Maine, that split their electoral votes by congressional district – Mr Biden won the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Omaha.
The Nebraska Democratic Party chair, Jane Kleeb, declared victory early Wednesday.
“Omaha is now Joe-maha,” she said.
Because Mr Biden won that lone Nebraska electoral vote, it kept open the path that allows him to win Arizona and Nevada and reach exactly 270 electoral votes.
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