WILMINGTON, Del. – Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s campaign team started on election day believing the candidate had multiple routes to get 270 electoral votes, as some Democrats dreamed of a landslide.
A day later, it was clear that the path to victory would be narrower, slower, and more difficult than many Democrats had hoped for, to serve as a reminder of how deeply polarized the nation is and how difficult it has been. for the party to get the votes. from some of the various constituencies she had courted.
“I thought we were going to finish everything at 10 o’clock last night,” said former Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida. “Obviously, not only was I wrong about Florida, but what happened to Florida has happened across the country.”
Telling himself that he remained convinced that Mr. Biden would eventually win the presidency, he joked, “I’m carrying a sack and ashes.”
Mr. Biden has a clear path to the presidency, despite President Trump’s false claims about his own position in the race. Mr. Biden reversed Wisconsin and Michigan, Midwestern states that were central to Mr. Trump’s path. He rules in Arizona, another state that was for decades a Republican stronghold but rejected the party under Mr. Trump’s leadership.
Victories in Nevada, where Mr. Biden is narrowly leading, and Arizona would bring him to 270 electoral votes, the minimum number he needs to make him the 46th President of the United States. And Wednesday night Georgia was too close to call, too.
In a speech in Wilmington on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Biden said he would reach 270. “I’m not here to declare that we have won,” he said, “but I am here to report that when the tally is over, we believe we will be the winners. “
Still, the first results on Tuesday and Wednesday indicated a much tighter race in key states than many political observers – and polls – had anticipated. Mr Biden lost Florida, apparently by a larger margin than Hillary Clinton, while the outcome in Pennsylvania, long a high political and personal priority for Mr Biden, remained uncertain, even if there was signs that it was going in his direction.
In his remarks in Wilmington, Mr Biden sought to signal that he is already looking beyond the election, stressing the need for the country to come together once the results are known.
“I know it won’t be easy; I’m not naive, ”he says. “I know how deep and hard the opposing views are in our country on so many things. But I also know it: in order to progress, we must stop treating our adversaries as enemies. We are not enemies. “
Election night, however, underscored how deep divisions in the country run. A number of states Democrats had hopes of – places like Ohio, Florida and even Texas, where Mr. Biden’s running mate Senator Kamala Harris campaigned – have slipped out of reach. And the states where Mr. Biden was supposed to have a comfortable lead, including Wisconsin and Michigan, were extremely close.
Ohio, Texas, Iowa, Florida and quite possibly North Carolina – all battlegrounds, all reaching for the campaign where he nonetheless invested Democratic ticket time last week – have remained Republicans. It was a disappointment to some members of Mr. Biden’s campaign who had hoped for an early night and overwhelming rejection from Mr. Trump, even as they remained cheered by the news from Arizona.
“Running the table in modern American politics is really tough,” said Rep. Tim Ryan, Democrat from Ohio, who held on to his seat in part of the state that has become increasingly difficult for his party, and was optimistic about Mr. Biden’s chances. mostly.
Biden’s campaign officials had always said they sought to create as many avenues to 270 electoral votes as possible, and Mr. Biden’s campaign manager Jennifer O’Malley Dillon warned there are weeks that the race was closer than the polls suggested.
“We have always believed that our initial route to victory was through the Upper Midwest,” Anita Dunn, senior campaign advisor to Mr. Biden, said Wednesday. “The goal was to get 270 electoral votes, and we are confident that after the vote count, that’s where we’re going to be – above 270, that’s how you win the presidency in this. country.”
But on Tuesday, campaign officials had also considered having a clear picture of the results early on, suggesting that Mr Biden would deliver a presidential speech that hit the leadership and national unity notes that evening. Instead, given the close nature of many races, in a year when many Americans voted by mail in a pandemic, he made only brief remarks in the early hours of Wednesday, calling for the patience.
A review of election results in the battlefield states revealed hot spots for Mr Biden in a number of states, perhaps most importantly Florida.
The campaign has made an important game for the state an eternal battleground, deploying the Democratic ticket and former President Barack Obama in recent days. But as Mr Biden’s allies in the state had warned, and some within his campaign worried, he has had to face challenges with parts of the diverse Latino community. And for months, party officials in the state said, he wasn’t particularly visible on the ground, while Trump voters were clearly excited.
“Their message, their ‘socialism with a victory for Biden’, scared a lot of people in the South Florida area,” said State Senator Janet Cruz, Democrat, in a pre-election interview. “I call it a zipper effect: you start with a little problem, you close it right away. And it worked.
Mr. Biden has gained Hispanics in the state by just five percentage points, according to preliminary exit polls, a steep drop from four years ago, when Clinton gained 27 points among that group.
In one of his most notable setbacks, Mr Biden led by just seven points in Miami-Dade County, which has a predominantly Hispanic population and many Cuban-American residents, a steep drop from the margin of 29 points from Mrs. Clinton four years ago. . In Osceola County, central Florida, which has a large Puerto Rican population, Mr. Biden was ahead by 14 points, a notable drop from Ms. Clinton’s 25-point advantage.
Other states show the limits of Mr. Biden’s efforts to ward off white voters who backed Mr. Trump in 2016. In Iowa, many pro-Trump counties have moved more to the right. The same pattern can be seen in Ohio.
Yet, in some states like Pennsylvania, he also appeared to be making gains with other voters, including moderates and independents.
“My friends, I have no doubts that we will come out victorious,” Biden said on Wednesday. “There will be no Blue States or Red States when we win – just the United States of America.”