Donald Trump claimed the election was a ‘fraud on the American people’ and that he was going to the Supreme Court to stop all vote counting immediately in a White House statement at 2.30am.
He effectively made his own declaration of saying: ‘Frankly we did win this election.’
He set the stage for a titanic struggle with Joe Biden over the millions of ballots which are still to be counted and which might not be fully counted until as late as Friday.
Biden had been first to speak, just after midnight, saying ‘it ain’t over till every vote is counted,’ in an address from Wilmington, Delaware.
Trump tweeted immediately to accuse Biden of fraud and say he was ‘winning BIG’ and would make his own statement.
‘Votes cannot be cast after the Poles are closed!’ he tweeted from the White House residence – spelling polls incorrectly, but making clear that the battle will be over late-arriving mail-in ballots.
The outcome of the election had effectively ground to a halt just after midnight with Donald Trump on 213 electoral college votes and Joe Biden on 224, and seven battleground states too close to call.
Biden’s failure to land a knockout blow by taking Florida, Ohio or Texas means that the race comes down to Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – the ‘blue wall’ which Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.
But it will take days to determine the results from those states, setting the scene for a battle which was headed to the courts.
The Democrats were handed Arizona by Fox News in a call which the White House was disputing. If it holds, it gives Biden a precarious path to victory through two of the three states.
Both he and Trump are now effectively in a stalemate which can only be ended by the lengthy process of counting mail-in ballots.
‘We feel good about where we are, we really do. I’m here to tell you tonight, we believe we’re on track to win this election,’ Biden, alongside wife Jill, told supporters gathered outside the Chase Center. He pointed to the gain of Arizona and Minnesota, which NBC News said was leaning Biden minutes before he came onstage.
‘And we’re still in the game in Georgia, although that’s not one we expected,’ Biden said. ‘We feel real good about Wisconsin and Michigan. And, by the way, we’re going to win Pennsylvania,’ he said, getting copious honks from his drive-in crowd.
Biden said he was ‘encouraged,’ especially, by turnout in Philadelphia, which is adjacent to Wilmington.
‘Look, we could know the results as early as tomorrow morning. It may take longer as I’ve said all along,’ he said. ‘It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to call who wins this election, that’s the decision of the American people.’
‘I am optimistic about this outcome,’ he said.
Right before he exited he told the crowd that he and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, would be talking tomorrow.
As Biden was pulling in, the jumbotrons, which were playing MSNBC, announced that President Donald Trump had officially won Florida – the first sign Tuesday that the U.S. was in for a long night.
Big swaths of potentially Democratic votes were outstanding in places like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Detroit and Atlanta when Biden appeared.
After 1am, Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional district – which is worth one electoral vote – was called for Biden.
Trump’s team had determined that his support in the eastern area of the state was wobbly, with the president holding a rally in Omaha on October 27. That event made news when hundreds of the president’s supporters were left outside for hours in the cold when shuttle buses couldn’t reach the event site.
The gain for Biden is notable because it will prevent a 269-269 tie between the two presidential candidates. In 2016, Trump won all three of Nebraska’s Congressional districts and thus all of its five electoral votes.
Trump snatched the biggest electoral prizes of the night in the closing minutes of Tuesday, as he took Ohio and Fox News declared him the winner in Florida and Texas.
But Biden scored the first takeaway of the evening as he was also given Arizona by Fox News, making the western battleground the first state to change hands from 2016.
The gain provided Biden a precarious path to victory even if he were to lose one of three Midwestern states with tight races that are part of his battle plan.
But that means the election now hinges on results which are certain to take well into Wednesday and probably even longer to be determined.
Keeping Ohio, Florida and Texas also suggested that polls had badly underestimated Trump’s support in the key battlegrounds – with some giving Biden double-digit leads with days to go, only for it to evaporate.
Ohio, with its 18 Electoral Votes, is a state Trump carried in 2016, but it represented an opportunity for Biden. He made a quick visit to Cleveland one of his final trips of the campaign.
Biden also eyed Florida as a prime electoral prize, but it was only a part of several electoral vote scenarios his team prepared to execute.
Having Florida and Ohio in his column handed the president key pieces of his 2016 successful electoral map – depriving Joe Biden of an early prize that would have sent a powerful signal had he won it.
However, the AP and other networks stopped short of calling Florida for Trump, given the close margin, outstanding vote, and the state’s history of close and contested elections.
A Trump loss in Florida had been potentially devastating. Instead, he was on track to keep a state where public polls had Biden with a narrow lead. Trump made Florida, a regular battleground, his official residence after moving it from New York.
With three quarters of the vote in, Biden was leading Trump 54 to 45 in Arizona.
The projected victory means he can take away the state’s 11 electoral votes from the 306-vote coalition Trump assembled four years ago.
That means Biden now needs to win two of the three Midwestern states which Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 to get to 270 electoral college votes. But with Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin all saying that mail-in ballot counting is going to run into Wednesday and even later, that means there is no rapid resolution in sight.
Biden made Arizona a top target, hoping to bank on demographic changes there. He got another boost when Cindy McCain, widow of the late Arizona Senator John McCain, endorsed him and campaigned with him. John McCain has been a regular Trump target, and his vote in the Senate helped kill a GOP effort to repeal Obamacare.
With Florida out of reach, Biden could still look to North Carolina, but he was trailing Trump there with 95 per cent of the vote in. Trump also held a narrow lead in Iowa with 84% of precincts reporting. In Georgia, Trump was leading 53 to 45, with 80% of precincts reporting.
Adding to the confusion and drama of the evening, each state counted its votes differently – with some running through early votes quickly, and others starting with Election Day votes, and mail-in ballots continuing to be the wild card.
The first sign of trouble for the Democrat began with disappointing vote totals coming in from Miami-Dade County in Florida. Biden ran ahead of President Trump there – but was only up 53 to 46% with 95% of precincts reporting.
That wasn’t enough to match Hillary Clinton’s totals, and didn’t appear to be enough to offset Trump advantages in other rural parts of the state. It was a sign that Biden hadn’t done what he needed to do to lock down support among the state’s many Cuban-American, Venezuelan-American, and other Hispanic voters.
Improvements over Clinton’s numbers outside Tampa and around Jacksonville might not be enough to make up the difference, and the state was too close to call with 94% of precincts reporting, although Trump was holding on to a narrow lead.
Florida has a long history of close elections and contested counts, and networks were loath to make final calls even with Trump leading 51 to 48 with 94% of precincts reporting.
An early lead for Biden in Texas also slipped away, with Trump leading 51 to 47 with 80% of precincts reporting.
None of those state results were final, and there were also encouraging signs for Biden, including outperforming Clinton in some suburban areas that were key to Trump’s victory.
Biden’s camp could still look to the ‘blue wall,’ and votes were slower to come into Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, although Trump was leading in all three in the early count.
In a sign that Democrats’ vast fundraising had failed to bring about success, the $100million spent by Jaime Harrison to unseat Lindsey Graham in South Carolina failed, with the Republican winning by a projected margin of as much as 10 points.
‘WE ARE LOOKING REALLY GOOD ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. THANK YOU!’ Trump tweeted early Tuesday evening before the votes came in, after sounding hoarse and tired in an early morning radio interview and scheduling a quick visit to his campaign headquarters Tuesday.
Trump held an early lead in Michigan, leading 55 to 44 with 38% of precincts reporting.
But less than a third of the vote was in in vote-rich Wayne County, which includes Detroit. Biden was up 52 to 47 in Oakland County outside Detroit with 58% of the vote in.
Arizona, another prize, remained very much in play. With three-quarters of the vote counted, Biden was leading Trump 54 to 45. However, early in-person and mail-ballots were expected to come in first, providing Trump a chance to gain ground.
Trump was leading by 2 percentage points in Wisconsin with 40% of the vote counted.
With votes being counted there was nothing for the two candidates to do but wait.
President Trump is watching returns in upstairs residence of the White House with family and close advisers. Downstairs in the East Wing, Trump supporters watched returns on TV screens showing Fox News and snacking on fast food, including French fries and hamburgers.
Biden is at his home in Wilmington, watching returns with his family.
Trump won eight electoral votes from Kentucky, five from West Virginia and 11 from Indiana, while Biden took three for Vermont.
Arizona, Iowa, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin are among the states to watch.
The winner of some of those states may not be known for days. The Supreme Court extended deadlines in North Carolina and Pennsylvania for officials there to accept mail-in ballots, a blow to Republicans.
Trump, in particular, has railed against the Pennsylvania decision and has threatened legal action in the state against any disputed ballots.
‘We believe this to be a tight race,’ Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said Tuesday evening on a call with reporters. ‘We believe every votes going to matter. It’s going to come down to turnout. We think we’re better positioned in that sort of in that type of campaign.’
There have been reports of long lines at polls across the country. As long as voters are in line by the time polls close, they are allowed to vote.
Biden refused to say how the night will go, telling reporters Tuesday outside a Delaware community center that he’s ‘superstitious’ about offering predictions but remains ‘hopeful.’
‘The things that are happening bode well for the base that has been supporting me — but we´ll see,’ he said.
But he noted things were ‘so uncertain’ because of the large number of states in play.
Biden and Trump were switching back and forth between having the lead in Florida, though early totals out of Miami-Dade seemed to spell trouble for Biden, as Trump has heavily courted the Latino population, particularly in Miami’s Cuban communities.
He held a midnight rally in the Miami area on Sunday, which attracted an estimated 12,000 supporters. CNN was reporting that Biden was underperforming Clinton’s totals in Miami-Dade by more than 5%.
In Florida, a machine recount is triggered when the margin between the candidates is less than or equal to .5% of the total votes.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scored the first important win of the election night, with networks calling his race for reelection soon after the polls closed in Kentucky.
It was a result that political experts had forecast – but it dashed the hopes of Trump ‘resistance’ members who poured contributions into the race in hopes of turning back a prime facilitator of the president’s agenda.
McConnell, the architect of the strategy to push through a quick confirmation for Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, was leading Democrat Amy McGrath 56% to 40%, with about two-thirds of the state’s vote counted.
McConnell, who also helped push through Trump’s tax cuts and confirmed a raft of appeals court judges, also designed the strategy to block President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland.
What is still unknown is whether he will return to the Senate next year as majority leader or as minority leader – with Democrats holding a decent chance of taking over the chamber, where Republicans hold a 53 to 47 edge.
He won in a what was looking to be a difficult year for incumbent Republicans after spending 36 years in the Senate, defeating McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot, as President Donald Trump carried the state.
Democrats made McConnell a top target even with ample other opportunities on the map, funneling $88 million to McGrath and shattering records compared to $55million for McConnell, a proven fundraiser.
Both Biden and Donald Trump have been eyeing Pennsylvania as one of the key swing states in the White House race.
Pennsylvania accounts for a significant 20 electoral votes meaning both Republicans and Democrats – as well as pollsters – believe the outcome of the state could dictate the entire race.
Concerns are mounting that Trump will declare victory in the state long before votes are counted or that he will attempt to stop mail-in votes being counted after election day.
Democrats are thought to be more likely to vote by mail-in voting given Trump’s constant rhetoric that the process is ‘rigged’.
Colorado Senator Cory Gardner became the first major political casualty Tuesday night, after former governor and Denver mayor John Hickenlooper defeated him.
Gardner was considered one of the most endangered Republican incumbents on the ballot Tuesday, running in a state where Joe Biden was running strongly against President Trump.
His defeat would take the GOP’s narrow Senate majority down to 52 votes – however should Republicans knock off Alabama Democratic Sen. Doug Jones it would be a wash.
Gardner trailed Hickenlooper in opinion polls going into election day, and Hickenlooper overcame some of his own stumbles after he was forced to pay a state ethics fine. He ran for president this year and stumbled, but was considered a top Democratic prospect in his state.
Like other Senate Republicans, Hickenlooper became tied to Trump, who was viewed negatively in the state. Although he once criticized Trump during the 2016 campaign after the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape, Gardner, a former leader of his party’s campaign wing, didn’t put much distance between himself and the president.
He said he thought Trump was moral and ethical when asked about it during a candidates’ debate. ‘I wish he could be more specific in his communications with the American people,’ Gardner added.