NEW YORK: It was pretty early on in the evening when Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor turned political commentator, said that all hopes of “multiple pathways” that would secure the magic 270 for Joe Biden were “done.”
Christie was taking part in a panel of election specialists on ABC News. Confusion was clear on the faces of pollsters who had been predicting an easy, landslide victory for Biden in the past few months. It did not take long for all of them to agree that we were seeing a repeat of 2016.
With one difference: as of early Wednesday morning, the United States still does not have a winner.
As the votes continue to be counted, the two candidates spoke on Wednesday morning.
Addressing supporters in his home state of Delaware, Biden projected confidence in winning, and said he was not surprised that results are still shrouded in mystery, given the unprecedented mail-in vote.
“We’ll wait until the hard work of tallying votes is finished,” the former vice-president said. Biden urged patience as he pointed to the slow-counting states of Pennsylvania and Michigan, two of the tightest battlegrounds, where he expects to win.
Votes cast on Election Day were breaking in Trump’s favor. But mail-in ballots favored Biden.
“As I’ve said all along, it’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election,” Biden said. “That’s the decision of the American people. But I’m optimistic about this outcome. It ain’t over till every vote is counted.”
In his remarks, President Trump threatened to go the US Supreme Court: “We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at 4 o’clock in the morning and add them to the list,” the president said, continuing to spread the idea that attempts are being made to rig the election.
Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, issued a statement countering the president’s threat to go to court: “We have legal teams standing by ready to deploy to resist that effort. And they will prevail.’’
These threats, if followed through, could plunge the US in a constitutional crisis the likes of which have not been seen since 1876, and could drag on until January, and possibly beyond.
The threats from both campaigns came, however, after a peaceful and mostly uneventful Election Day. After a record turnout in early voting that reached 100 million votes, Americans just as quietly stood in long lines on Nov. 3 outside polling sites, braving fears of the coronavirus pandemic, dropping temperatures on the East Coast and the frustrating challenges of a voting system where so much as an unclear signature could disqualify a ballot.
Yet voter passion did not wane. Turnout was the highest since 1908, a sign of a bruising and polarized campaign where fear and anxiety have put millions of voters on edge.
Despite commentators and pollsters backing away from their former buoyant optimism about a Biden victory, things were looking more cheerful for Democrats on Wednesday morning than they did Tuesday night. Polls were right about at least one thing: it is all coming down to the so-called “blue-wall states”: Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. In 2016, Trump flipped those traditionally Democratic states to achieve his victory.
Biden is leading in Michigan and he edged past Trump in Wisconsin, though by a less than a percentage point, as more mail-in ballots were tallied and added to the total.
Notorious for its slow counting, Pennsylvania is tallying more than 1 million outstanding ballots.
Like early voting, mail-in tends to favor the Democratic candidate.
So what are the leftover pathways for Biden?
Keep an eye on Arizona and the blue-wall states.
Biden already has a 3-point lead in the Grand Canyon state. Winning Arizona would take pressure off him having to rely on the blue-wall states. He can then afford to lose Pennsylvania. Biden’s presidency would be secured under this scenario largely thanks to the lone Nebraska electoral vote that Biden received, which made this possible — Nebraska is not a winner-take-all state.
Also, with tens of thousands of votes left to be counted in both Arizona and Georgia, Biden has another route, in which he could win the two Sun Belt states and get the 270 votes without winning the three blue-wall states.
Still, a Biden victory is still possible in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Winning these three would also bring his total electoral votes to 270.
Trump, for his part, was determined that he would retain the states of Georgia which he won in 2016, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania—all with large amounts of ballots still to be counted — on his road to victory in the Electoral College.
However, most election experts seem to agree that for the president, it all comes down to Michigan and Georgia in the end.
Republican strategist Alex Conant told NPR that “(Trump) needs to overperform in traditionally blue states. Trump wins when the voters Democrats take for granted no longer reliably vote for Democrats.”
Millions of mail-in votes still to be counted, the two candidates projecting optimism for their own victory, a pandemic that is seeing caseloads spike across the US, and the threat of a constitutional crisis: this is what America has to contend with in the coming days, weeks, perhaps months, a possibility that many have already come to terms with.