Democrat Joe Biden has defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States.
Mr Biden’s victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of postal votes that delayed the processing of some ballots. Mr Biden crossed 270 electoral college votes with a win in Pennsylvania.
Mr Trump refused to concede, threatening further legal action on ballot counting.
Mr Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanising a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Mr Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy.
Mr Biden, in a statement, said he was humbled by the victory and it was time for the battered nation to set aside its differences.
“It’s time for America to unite. And to heal,” he said.
“With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation,” Mr Biden said. “There’s nothing we can’t do if we do it together.”
Mr Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.
Mr Trump, however, is not giving up.
Departing from long-standing democratic tradition and signalling a potentially turbulent transfer of power, he issued a combative statement while he was on his Virginia golf course. It said his campaign would take unspecified legal actions and he would “not rest until the American People have the honest vote count they deserve and that Democracy demands”.
Mr Trump has pointed to delays in processing the vote in some states to allege with no evidence that there was voter fraud and to argue that his rival was trying to seize power – an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.
Kamala Harris also made history as the first black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the US faces a reckoning on racial justice. The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Mr Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
Mr Trump is the first incumbent president to lose re-election since Republican George HW Bush in 1992. It was unclear whether Mr Trump would publicly concede.
Americans showed deep interest in the presidential race. A record 103 million voted early this year, opting to avoid waiting in long queues at polling locations during a pandemic. With counting continuing in some states, Mr Biden had already received more than 74 million votes, more than any presidential candidate before him.
Mr Trump’s refusal to concede has no legal implications. But it could add to the incoming administration’s challenge of bringing the country together after a bitter election.
Throughout the campaign, Mr Trump repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, arguing without evidence that the election could be marred by fraud. The nation has a long history of presidential candidates peacefully accepting the outcome of elections, dating back to 1800, when John Adams conceded to his rival Thomas Jefferson.
It was Mr Biden’s native Pennsylvania that put him over the top, the state he invoked throughout the campaign to connect with working class voters. He also won Nevada pushing his total to 290 Electoral College votes.
More than 236,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 million have been infected and millions of jobs have been lost. The final days of the campaign played out against the backdrop of a surge in confirmed cases in nearly every state, including battlegrounds such as Wisconsin that swung to Mr Biden.
The pandemic will soon be Mr Biden’s to tame, and he campaigned pledging a big government response, akin to what Franklin D Roosevelt oversaw with the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s. But Senate Republicans fought back several Democratic challengers and looked to retain a fragile majority that could serve as a check on such ambition from Mr Biden.
The 2020 campaign was a referendum on Mr Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has closed schools across the nation, disrupted businesses and raised questions about the feasibility of family gatherings heading into the holidays.
The fast spread of coronavirus transformed political rallies from standard campaign fare to gatherings that were potential public health emergencies. It also contributed to an unprecedented shift to voting early and by mail and prompted Mr Biden to dramatically scale back his travel and events to comply with restrictions.
Mr Trump defied calls for caution and ultimately contracted the disease himself. He was saddled throughout the year by negative assessments from the public of his handling of the pandemic.
Mr Biden also drew a sharp contrast to Mr Trump through a summer of unrest over the police killings of black Americans including Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Their deaths sparked the largest racial protest movement since the civil rights era. Mr Biden responded by acknowledging the racism that pervades American life, while Mr Trump emphasised his support of police and pivoted to a “law and order” message that resonated with his largely white base.
The president’s most ardent backers never wavered and may remain loyal to him and his supporters in Congress after Mr Trump has departed the White House.
The third president to be impeached, though acquitted in the Senate, Mr Trump will leave office having left an indelible imprint in a tenure defined by the shattering of White House norms and a day-to-day whirlwind of turnover, partisan divide and the ever-present threat via his Twitter account.
Mr Biden, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Delaware, was one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the Senate. Before he took office, his wife and daughter were killed, and his two sons badly injured in a 1972 car crash.
Commuting every night on a train from Washington back to Wilmington, Mr Biden fashioned an everyman political persona to go along with powerful Senate positions, including chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. Some aspects of his record drew critical scrutiny from fellow Democrats, including his support for the 1994 crime bill, his vote for the 2003 Iraq War and his management of Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings.
Mr Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign was done in by plagiarism allegations, and his next bid in 2008 ended quietly. But later that year, he was tapped to be Barack Obama’s running mate and he became an influential vice president.
While his reputation was burnished by his time in office and his deep friendship with Mr Obama, Mr Biden stood aside for Mrs Clinton and opted not to run in 2016 after his adult son Beau died of brain cancer the year before.
Mr Trump’s tenure pushed Mr Biden to make one more run as he declared that “the very soul of the nation is at stake”.