in Washington and Dearborn, Michigan
Democrat Joe Biden says his campaign is all but certain it will secure enough electoral votes to win the US presidential election, following a nail-biting race against President Donald Trump.
“After a long night of counting, it’s clear we’re winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes to win the presidency,” Biden said at his campaign headquarters in Delaware on Wednesday afternoon.
“I’m not here to declare that we’ve won, but I am here to report that, when the count is finished, we will be the winners,” he said.
CNN announced moments earlier that it projected the key swing states of Wisconsin and Michigan to go to Biden, both states that Trump had taken from Democrats in 2016.
Earlier on Wednesday, Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s campaign manager, said the Democratic nominee would also win Arizona, putting him well past the 270 electoral college votes needed to secure the White House.
Early results had initially showed Trump leading in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Still, mail-in ballots, which are counted and reported later than election-day votes, subsequently gave Biden slim leads in Michigan and Wisconsin overnight.
Trump expressed scepticism about the updated results, which saw his chances of staying in the White House for a second term diminish.
“Last night I was leading, often solidly, in many key states, in almost all instances Democrat run & controlled,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “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!”
There are still more votes to count, Dillion said, though in Michigan the uncounted ballots are mostly from Democratic areas that will only increase Biden’s lead.
“Today, the vice president will garner more votes than any presidential candidate in history, and we’re still counting,” Dillon said. “Over 135 million votes have been counted so far, and the vice president has received 69 million votes so far. He’s won over 50 percent of the popular vote.”
If the results stand, Biden’s victory will be smaller than predicted by some public opinion polls that projected he would win by a landslide.
Trump held on to the key states of Texas, Ohio and Florida, all while remaining competitive in the other swing states where Biden now has narrow leads.
“We expected this to be a nail-biter. And we sure got one,” said Robert McCaw, government affairs director at the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
A CAIR exit poll showed that about 70 percent of Muslim-American voters favoured Biden. “When you look at really tight races like Michigan, there’s a story to be told about Muslim voters, where 69 or 70 percent of the community supported Biden. That could have carried him over the edge into victory,” McCaw said.
Maha Hilal, co-director of Justice for Muslims Collective, expressed disappointment the race was so close.
“It’s very concerning that after all the damage Donald Trump has done, that Americans would go for him in droves, which is what has happened,” Hilal said. “Joe Biden, at the same time, the only reason he’s partially ahead, is because of a global plague. It’s very depressing to think about what this says about Americans.”
In 2015, candidate Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the United States, and in one of his first decrees as a president, he imposed a travel ban on several Muslim-majority Arab countries.
In the final weeks before Tuesday’s vote, Trump revived his xenophobic message, often warning Biden would turn swing states into “refugee camps”.
The US president also incessantly targeted Muslim-American Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, repeatedly casting her as a foreigner trying to tell Americans how to run “our country”.
“You did not see a rebuke of Donald Trump’s racism or misogyny during the 2016 campaign. And you certainly didn’t see a rebuke of his anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, xenophobic, white supremacist, racist, antisemitic [rhetoric] in this election either,” said Maya Berry, executive director of the Arab American Institute (AAI). “As an American, I absolutely find that devastating for sure.”
Still, Berry added that she was encouraged by the voter turnout and political engagement in the Arab community: “As an Arab American, I’m just so exceedingly proud of my community.”
The fact that the election is so close means Trump’s message that he is “protecting” people from Arab and Muslim refugees has resonated with millions in his base.
Berry said there was an increase in Arab-American voters, volunteers and electoral energy on Tuesday: “Those communities that feel targeted demonstrated how they were going to push back and that is by voting in unprecedented numbers.”
Although the Biden campaign is confident the Democratic candidate will win the White House, a long road of challenges may lay ahead.
Trump is already questioning the results, and he suggested that he had won the race just hours after the polls closed – with millions of votes still to be counted.
Berry said it was “extraordinary” that Trump said counting ballots that favoured his opponent amounted to voter fraud. She also hit out at the Republican Party for failing to stand up to the president:
“What’s crazy is we have yet a new milestone, which is that a sitting president of our country made those statements and the leadership of his party didn’t come out and say: That’s not how this works.”
Arab and Muslim advocates opposed to Trump have been calling on people to vote for Biden, then hold him accountable once he is president. The former vice president may soon become President-elect Biden.
Berry said community advocates would continue to push Biden on his “deeply flawed” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where, she said, the US had been doing the same thing and expecting different results, as well as across a range of domestic issues:
“We’ve already been engaged on our key issues of concern during the campaign, during the hypothetical transition and we will certainly continue to do so during a Biden administration.”