Joe Biden is pushing closer to the 270 electoral college votes needed to reach the White House, winning the “blue wall” battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Michigan, and narrowing Donald Trump’s path. With just a handful of states still up for grabs, Mr Trump tried to press his case in court in some key swing states, but it is unclear if any of his legal manoeuvring can shift the race in his favour.
Two days after election day, neither candidate had amassed the votes needed to win the White House, but Mr Biden’s victories in the Great Lakes states left him at 264, meaning he is one battleground state away from becoming president-elect.
Mr Trump, with 214 electoral votes, faces a much higher hurdle. To reach 270, he needs to claim all four remaining battlegrounds: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada.
With millions of votes yet to be counted, his Democratic opponent has already won more than 71 million votes, the most in history. At a news conference, the former vice president said he expected to win the presidency but stopped short of outright declaring victory.
“I will govern as an American president,” he said. ”There will be no red states and blue states when we win. Just the United States of America.”
It was a stark contrast to the approach of Mr Trump, who early on Wednesday morning falsely claimed he had won the election.
The Republican’s campaign launched in a flurry of legal activity to try to improve his chances and cast doubt on the election results, requesting a recount in Wisconsin and filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.
State-wide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred, and Mr Biden is leading led by more than 20,000 ballots out of nearly 3.3 million counted.
For four years, Democrats have been haunted by the crumbling of the blue wall. Mr Trump’s populist appeal struck a chord with white working-class voters in the trio of Great Lakes states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — and he captured all three in 2016 by a combined total of just 77,000 votes.
The candidates waged a fierce fight for the states this year, with Mr Biden’s everyman political persona resonating in blue-collar towns while his campaign also pushed to increase turnout among black voters in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee.
It is unclear when a national winner will be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy.
Even as Mr Biden’s prospects improved, the US on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed coronavirus cases as several states posted all-time highs. The pandemic has killed more than 232,000 Americans.
Mr Trump spent much of Wednesday in the White House residence, huddling with advisers and fuming at media coverage showing his Democratic rival picking up battlegrounds.
He used his Twitter feed to falsely claim victory in several key states and amplify unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic gains as absentee and early votes were tabulated.
His campaign manager Bill Stepien said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing “irregularities” in several counties.
The campaign also said it was filing suits in Michigan and Pennsylvania to halt ballot counting on the grounds that it was not given proper access to observe. More legal action was launched in Georgia.
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of votes are still to be counted in Pennsylvania, and Mr Trump’s campaign said it was moving to intervene in existing Supreme Court litigation over counting mail-in ballots there.
The campaign also argued that outstanding votes still could flip the outcome in Arizona, which went for Mr Biden, show an inconsistency in its arguments over prolonged tabulation.
In other closely watched races, Mr Trump picked up Florida, the largest of the swing states, and held on to Texas and Ohio, while Mr Biden kept New Hampshire and Minnesota.