Joe Biden moved closer to winning the US presidential election as he increased his lead over President Donald Trump in Pennsylvania, a crucial battleground state where victory would propel the Democrat past the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House.
As Mr Biden prepared to make a speech to the nation on Friday night, Mr Trump warned his opponent not to “wrongfully” claim victory. While the Associated Press and US television networks have not yet called Pennsylvania for Mr Biden, the former vice-president was expanding his lead in the state.
“Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!” Mr Trump tweeted on Friday, days after he declared that he had won.
Mr Biden was leading by 16,784 votes in Pennsylvania, with roughly 96 per cent of the vote counted, as officials continued to tally ballots from largely Democratic areas in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city.
But the pace of counting slowed on Friday, raising the odds that the result might not be known before the weekend. Officials in Pennsylvania started tackling tens of thousands of “provisional” ballots that take more time to process.
In addition to his lead in Pennsylvania, Mr Biden also overtook Mr Trump in Georgia on Friday. He boosted that edge to 4,175 votes by Friday evening, with roughly 98 per cent of the votes counted, according to the Associated Press and the National Election Pool.
Georgia officials predicted that the close race was heading for a recount. Mr Trump has also said that he would request a recount in Wisconsin, a state that Mr Biden won by just over 20,000 votes.
Election officials in Pennsylvania and Georgia said that all their outstanding ballots were unlikely to be counted by Friday evening. It was unclear if Mr Biden would secure enough of a margin in either of the states to trigger a declaration of victory on Friday from the AP or television networks.
Victory in Pennsylvania, which has 20 electoral votes would hand the presidency to Mr Biden, starting a new chapter in US history after the turbulence of Mr Trump’s tenure in office.
Mr Biden, a 77-year-old son of working-class Scranton, Pennsylvania, was set to become the oldest candidate elected to the presidency. Having served for nearly four decades in the US Senate and eight years as Barack Obama’s vice-president, Mr Biden ran on a promise to unify the nation.
If he wins, his running mate, Kamala Harris, would be the first African-American woman and first person of Indian descent to be vice-president.
Mr Trump, a New York property mogul turned reality television star, took aim at the norms of US politics, pursuing a populist agenda at home and an “America First” policy overseas that frustrated and worried American allies from Germany and the UK to Japan.
Mr Biden was also leading in Nevada, which has yet to be declared, and Arizona, which has been called for Mr Biden by several media organisations, including the Financial Times.
Mr Trump’s legal team has challenged the Pennsylvania count in court.
Mr Trump, who complained on Thursday that the election was being “stolen”, was facing the prospect of becoming the first president to lose his bid for re-election since 1992.
With ballots still being counted across the country, Mr Biden had received more votes than any presidential candidate in history — more than 74m, and 4m more than Mr Trump, who increased his vote compared with 2016.
Given Mr Biden’s electoral-college lead, Mr Trump has to win Pennsylvania to maintain a potential path to victory. Earlier on Friday, Mr Trump said “all legal ballots must be counted and all illegal ballots should not be counted”, and that Democrats had resisted this “basic principle . . . at every turn”.
He said: “This is no longer about any single election. This is about the integrity of our entire election process.”
On Thursday, Mr Biden said there was “no doubt” he would be elected the 46th US president, but he shied away from declaring victory.
Mr Trump has made clear he will not concede without a legal fight even if Mr Biden has secured more than 270 electoral college votes. Speaking from the White House podium on Thursday in his first public appearance since election day, Mr Trump said: “If you count the legal votes, I easily win.”
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Without presenting any evidence of misconduct, the president added: “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us, if you count the votes that came in late.” Only a handful of Republicans, such as the ardent loyalist senator Lindsey Graham, have echoed Mr Trump’s claims.
Mr Trump appeared to concede that he was on track to lose in Georgia and Pennsylvania, insisting the election day tally — which did not include most mail-in ballots — should be viewed as definitive. “I won Pennsylvania by a lot, and that gets whittled down,” he said.
Mr Trump took a strong early lead in Georgia as votes were counted from conservative parts of the state, which has not voted for a Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1992. But Mr Biden caught up as mail-in votes from the heavily African-American suburbs of Atlanta area were counted.
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