Former Vice President Joe Biden has defeated Donald Trump and will become the 46th president of the United States, capping a dramatic election that saw the president prematurely declare victory after the Democratic nominee spent months declaring him unfit for office.
Its 20 Electoral College votes put him over the 270 needed to win, stamping the Trump presidency with a 20 January expiration date.
Following the crucial Pennsylvania news, Mr Biden said he was “honoured and humbled” and vowed to be a leader for the entire country, “whether you voted for me or not.”
On Twitter he said, "America, I'm honoured that you have chosen me to lead our great country. "The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans - whether you voted for me or not. "I will keep the faith that you have placed in me."
And in a statement he said it was “time to heal.”
“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris. In the face of unprecedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again, that democracy beats deep in the heart of America,” 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. It's time for America to unite. And to heal. We are the United States of America. And there's nothing we can't do, if we do it together."
The AP had already called Arizona and its 11 Electoral College votes for Mr Biden, although other outlets waited for the full result. Counts were still ongoing in two other swing states with close margins: Georgia and Nevada.
The declaration for Mr Biden came on the fourth-post Election Day of vote-counting, which played out on live cable television networks as states and counties methodically verified ballots and released results.
In a speech on Friday evening in his home state of Delaware, Mr Biden had asked for patience as the last key states counted their ballots, and urged the country to put aside its deep differences.
“We may be opponents — but we are not enemies,” he said. “The purpose of our politics is not total unrelenting warfare. … We have to put the anger and demonization behind us. It’s time for us to come together as a nation to heal.”
Since he surged ahead in several swing states, the former Vice President has made repeated appeals for unity, with some experts saying his goal of bringing together the country will be an uphill fight."Let me be clear: we are campaigning as Democrats,” Mr Biden said on Wednesday of himself and his running mate, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. “But I will govern as an American president.”
“The presidency itself is not a partisan institution. It's the one office in this nation that represents everyone and it demands a duty of care for all Americans,” he added. “And that is precisely what I will do. … I will work as hard for those who didn't vote for me as I will for those who did vote for me.”
The AP’s declaration came amid aggressive legal jockeying between the Biden and Trump campaigns, as the Democratic camp urged state and local officials to count every ballot while the president’s team sought hard to have vote-counting stopped in several battleground states with razor-thin margins favouring the incumbent.
The president-elect’s top campaign aides slammed Mr Trump’s labelling of the mail-in voting process as “fraud” and an effort to “steal” the presidency from him “outrageous because it is a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens.”
But, as always since he took office, Mr Trump pushed back on Twitter, buoyed by his correct assertions for months that his campaign’s polling was more accurate than public surveys conducted by professional polling firms and news outlets.
“Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key States, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled,” Mr Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning before his campaign demanded a full recount in Wisconsin. “Then, one by one, they started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted. VERY STRANGE, and the ‘pollsters’ got it completely & historically wrong!”
Breaking a 36-hour silence after prematurely declaring victory on Wednesday, Mr Trump continued spewing unfounded conspiracy theories about election fraud and illegal ballot-counting as he addressed Americans from the White House on Thursday evening.
"If you count the legal votes, I easily win," the president claimed, falsely alleging local elections officials had accepted ballots after Election Day and were padding the stats for Mr Biden.
Mr Trump continues to try through lawsuits and tweets to force local and state officials in some swing states where ballots remain uncounted to stop their tallies, while urging officials in Arizona to keep counting. He trails in the states he wants to stop and his team thinks he might surpass the former vice president in Arizona, which the AP and Fox News called for Mr Biden. On Thursday morning came this false presidential post: "ANY VOTE THAT CAME IN AFTER ELECTION DAY WILL NOT BE COUNTED!"
But his demands did not alone overrule state and federal election laws, meaning the counting and certification of votes continued. Ultimately, the AP determined Mr Biden had ample certified votes in enough states to, in the wire service’s view, clear the 270-electoral vote bar.
Still, all indications from the Trump campaign show a legal fight is ahead.
The incoming president, barring a legal reversal of his apparent victory, is slated to be sworn in after four chaotic years of Mr Trump’s term that saw the outgoing chief executive rip up international accords, roll back much of Barack Obama’s legacy, insult his opponents daily, peddle conspiracy theories, utter falsehoods and outright lies at a rapid pace, and help further divide an already tribal country split along racial, class, regional and ideological lines.
Polls tightened in the weeks leading up to Election Day, with the president closing within the margins of error in many swing states. But once in-person votes and ones cast via mail were counted, voters handed a rebuke to Mr Trump’s “America first” philosophy and brash governing style.
Mr Trump’s four-year gambit of never seriously trying to reach out to voting blocs beyond his conservative base ultimately failed on Election Day, leaving him without enough support in enough battleground states. The president’s antics while in office turned off parts of his 2016 coalition, and led him to become the 11th chief executive in history to lose a second term.
Mr Biden’s main campaign messages were that he is more qualified than Mr Trump to move the country beyond the coronavirus pandemic and then rebuild an economy that has been hindered because of the spreading-again disease.
He said he could unite a country that has allowed itself to be ripped apart by a politics that has become a bloodsport pitting red America against blue America, and tried on Wednesday to take a first step at reaching out to Republicans.
“Once this election is finalised and behind us, it will be time for us to do what we've always done as Americans, to put the harsh rhetoric of the campaign behind us, to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to one another, to hear each other again and respect and care for one another,” Mr Biden said at a speech in his adopted home state.
That was a theme he kicked off before Election Day, as both candidates barnstormed through a handful of battleground states, then using the again-fastly-spreading coronavirus as an example of the differences between his governing plans and those being executed by Mr Trump.
‘Truth over lies’
“It is what it is because he is who he is. That's the problem. Donald Trump waved the white flag, surrendered to the virus. But the American people don't give up, we don't give in,” Mr Biden said during a campaign stop last Saturday in Milwaukee. “Unlike Donald Trump, we're not going to surrender to this virus. We're simply not going to surrender.”
“The only thing that can tear America apart is America itself. And that's exactly what Donald Trump has been doing from the beginning of his campaign last time out. Dividing America,” the former vice president said.
“Pitting Americans against one another based on race, gender, religious, national origin, ethnicity. It's wrong. That's not who we are,” he added. “Everybody knows who Donald Trump is. Let's let him know who we are … in the last four days. We choose hope over fear. Unity over division. Science over fiction. And yes, truth over lies.”
One Democratic strategist said Mr Biden’s victory is a clear sign voters want a much different brand of leadership in Washington than Mr Trump’s populist-conservative philosophy and his sometime penchant, like other Republicans, to let the states deal with policy matters.
“America is changing and Trump supporters don't like it. While Trump supporters resist change. Biden voters welcome it,” said Brad Bannon. “The US Census Bureau has predicted that the US will be majority non-white by 2044, only 24 years from now. Many white Americans fear the loss of their special place in society and are fighting a rearguard action to delay the inevitable.”
“The other big change in American society is the centralisation of political and economic power at the national level,” he added. “The more complex society becomes, the more pressure there is to solve problems nationally. Health care is the best example. Biden supporters are comfortable with centralisation, Trump voters fight it.”
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