Biden as well as Trump campaigns hunkered down as Tuesday turned into Wednesday, preparing for an election that could stretch into the end of the week.
As results poured in from across the country, the election came into clearer focus.
Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania appeared poised to decide the race. But election officials in each of those states made clear they would be unlikely to declare even an unofficial winner until Wednesday at the earliest.
“I think we still have a long night ahead,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders, former White House press secretary, said in a Fox News interview from the White House, where she was attending an election night party.
Both candidates retained a path to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency, but it required them to win at least two of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The president won all three in 2016 narrowly.
Biden spoke to his supporters in Delaware around 12:30 a.m. and expressed optimism, saying he believed he was on track for a victory. But even he acknowledged nothing was final.
“It’s going to take a while. We’re going to have to be patient until the hard work of tallying votes is finished,” Biden said. “And it ain’t over until every vote is counted.”
The president later on Twitter, inaccurately claimed that the opposition was trying to “steal” the election.
“Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!” Trump tweeted, though several states legally count ballots that are postmarked by Election Day and received by a set date.
The president was expected to make further remarks early Wednesday morning.
Pennsylvania especially has been in the spotlight of attention over an influx of mail ballots amid the coronavirus pandemic. Trump has expressed outrage over a Supreme Court ruling that allows the state to count ballots postmarked by Election Day and received by Friday. He has baselessly claimed the ruling will “induce violence,” and he has openly indicated that he will pursue a legal challenge if the state goes to Biden.
The state is expected to continue counting ballots in the days to come, with a large number expected to be tabulated in areas around Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold.
In Michigan, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told reporters that she was hopeful to have “a very clear picture, if not a final picture, in the next 24 hours.”
“I’m really here tonight to ask you all to be patient,” she said. “We’re going to count every single vote in the state of Michigan, no matter how long it takes, no matter what candidates say, we’re going to work methodically and meticulously to count every single valid ballot.”
Wisconsin officials made clear they did not expect to announce a winner by the end of the night on Tuesday as the state counted up mail ballots, particularly around Milwaukee.
In Arizona, another state Trump carried in 2016, Trump allies were quick to question Fox News’s decision to call the state for Biden. They argued the network was too hasty, raising the possibility that both campaigns could be waiting on the state to finalize results into Wednesday.
“Election Day votes are not fully reported, and we haven’t even started to count early ballots dropped off at the polls,” Governor Doug Ducey tweeted. “In AZ, we protected Election Day. Let’s count the votes — all the votes — before making declarations.”
Even in Georgia, a state that has been reliably Republican for decades, officials warned of delays in tabulating absentee votes in Atlanta due to a burst water pipe. The New York Times projection needle abruptly tipped slightly in Biden’s favor shortly after midnight, raising new interest in the outcome of the race in the Peach State.
President’s campaign seemed to call into question the cause of the delay, blasting out a fundraising email just before midnight with the subject line “They’re not going to call the race” that went on to accuse the media and Democrats of trying to keep the president from winning.
Election experts have repeatedly made it clear that states do not typically have official results on election night. But the president bristles at the idea that his contest with Biden would last beyond Tuesday.
“You have to have a date, and the date happens to be Nov. 3, and we should be entitled to know who won on Nov. 3,” Trump said at his campaign offices earlier Tuesday. “And if somebody comes along and puts a ballot in way late, they shouldn’t be, they should put the ballot in earlier. There’s no reason why they can’t put the ballot in two weeks early or one week earlier.”