On Friday, Joseph R. Biden Jr. took the lead in Pennsylvania, where a victory would give him the presidency, and led on three other critical battlefields as his campaign focused on a presidential transition process and states were trying to count the remaining votes.
President Trump and his political lieutenants have spent the day continuing to circulate unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of the election, and Republicans in several states have threatened or taken legal action to slow or stop the counting of the ballots. But there were also growing indications that Mr. Trump would not have the full support of his party if he persisted in a scorched earth effort to hamper the electoral process.
Mr Biden and his team projected their confidence, after overtaking Mr Trump in the vote count in Pennsylvania and Georgia early on Friday.
But in both states, as well as Arizona and Nevada, Mr Biden was not yet leading by a wide enough margin to completely rule out any possibility – however remote – that the tally could still backfire. As of Friday night, Mr. Biden was ahead in Pennsylvania and Georgia by less than a percentage point, and not much more than the two western states.
If Mr. Biden won a two-state combination, or the state of Pennsylvania alone, he would win the majority of votes in the Electoral College.
Republican strategists and Trump allies admit that it is highly likely that Mr. Biden will cross that threshold soon enough and that he can ultimately carry the four states in question. In three of them, the remaining votes are seen as more likely to favor Mr. Biden than Mr. Trump; in the fourth, Arizona, Mr. Trump gained ground over Mr. Biden, but perhaps not enough to erase the former vice president’s lead.
Mr Biden was due to speak Friday night and address the state of the race in general, as he had done the previous two days. Campaign advisers have also indicated that they are ready to start appointing top officials to an administration scheduled in a few days, if the race is sparked in his favor.
In Georgia, Mr Biden took the lead overnight on Thursday, thanks to a vote count from Clayton County, a Democratic-leaning area near Atlanta. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, said the state remained “too close to be called” and predicted it was heading for a recount, given Mr Biden’s lead stood at only 4000 votes out of five million cast.
Mr Biden held a lead of around 30,000 votes in Arizona, after a new round of voting in Maricopa County, the state’s population center, helped Mr Trump close the gap of around 7,000 voice Friday night.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told CNN that 173,000 ballots remained to be counted statewide, including 92,000 in Maricopa County.
In Nevada, Mr Biden garnered about 2,500 votes in the Las Vegas area, officials said Friday night, giving him a lead of more than 22,000. Tens of thousands of ballots remain to be counted, but they continue to be counted. favor Mr. Biden.
It was in Pennsylvania, however, where the race seemed to be turning forcefully in Mr. Biden’s direction. Early Friday morning, a few thousand Philadelphia votes were released, propelling the former vice president to head of state and triggering happy celebrations in the city where Mr Biden officially began his campaign last year and has long considered a second home. As of Friday night, Mr. Biden led the state with just under 22,000 votes.
Outside the city’s convention center, cheering Biden supporters danced along a blocked section of the street as DJs with a speaker system playing music. They unfurled a banner stating “People have spoken”.
Bernadette Golarz, 36, a nurse from Philadelphia, said she was celebrating because she expected Mr. Trump to be defeated.
“We are here to make sure every vote counts,” she said. “We want to make sure our voters are counted and that our democracy is not stolen from us. We celebrate everyone’s right to vote and the fact that we have all come forward to eliminate it.
Pennsylvania Democrats, however, were increasingly frustrated with the slow count and were eager for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to post more returns.
In what appeared to be another attempt to create an artificial sense of uncertainty around the vote count, the Pennsylvania Republican Party on Friday appealed to the United States Supreme Court, asking it to order state election officials separate mail-in ballots arriving after polling day. of all the other votes, they tallied – even though Republicans admitted on the record that the Pennsylvania Secretary of State had already issued an order to that effect.
The Supreme Court’s attempt to involve the Supreme Court is part of a larger fight over the rules of postal voting in Pennsylvania, in which the High Court has already twice refused to get involved. But state officials said there were fewer postal votes arriving after Tuesday than they expected, suggesting that the stakes in the litigation may be relatively low.
On Friday night, a Nevada federal court dismissed a Republicans’ injunction that could have delayed the count here by several days. The GOP wanted to stop the use of a signature verification machine in Clark County, home of Las Vegas and the stronghold of Democratic votes. US District Court Judge Andrew Gordon refused to enter, saying plaintiffs lacked proof that the machine scanner affected voters.
So far, the lawsuits brought by Mr. Trump and other Republicans this week have had no significant effect on the compilation of the ballots, and they appear to be designed largely or even entirely for public relations purposes. . The Trump campaign has not sketched out a theory on how its various interventions might actually lead to a reversal of the underlying vote count.
On Friday, Mr. Trump vowed to exhaust all options open to him, making his point in a statement emailed to the media by his campaign.
Campaign officials met with White House officials on Friday, including White House lawyer Pat Cipollone, an administration official confirmed, but the legal route for Mr. Trump to challenge the validity of the results election has not been resolved.
Mr. Trump has been as angry in private as he has been in public, people who have spoken to him have said. One adviser said the president wanted “fighters” to defend him and was as concerned about the media battle as he was about legal challenges.
Fleeting efforts to gently convey to him that the situation is grim and unlikely to change have failed. And he’s encouraged by Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer and a small handful of White House advisers.
But another group of advisers have been more candid with Mr. Trump. Late Thursday and Friday afternoon, a handful of aides told the president they were ready to continue fighting the legal battles, but it was a tough climb with no likely positive outcome, according to people familiar with the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss private conversations. Mr. Trump, an adviser said, heard what they were saying, but is not yet ready to accept it.
On Capitol Hill, some Republican leaders have resisted accepting the likelihood of a Biden presidency, at least in their comments intended for public consumption. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the leader of the parliamentary minority, strongly associated himself with Mr. Trump. He appeared on Fox News Thursday night to insist the president “won this election” and again tied arms with the president on Friday. “Republicans will not back down in this battle,” he said.
But a handful of core GOP House lawmakers have refused to come out on the president’s side. “Unfounded allegations undermine public confidence in our electoral system, which is the foundation of our Republic,” said Representative Steve Stivers, an Ohioan who was chairman of the House Republican campaign committee two years ago when the midterm backlash against Mr. Trump cost the party its majority.
Privately, some longtime Republicans were even more caustic – dismayed, if not surprised, by the president’s handling of the elections. Some have said they can’t wait for him to concede, although Mr Trump has told his allies he doesn’t consider doing so while states still count and the vote is not certified. What this means in the long run is unclear.
Yet, a sign of the grip Mr. Trump retains over the party’s hard base, few Republicans in either chamber who do not retire or regular criticism of the president would confront him by name. In Kentucky, Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell has repeatedly evaded reporters’ questions about the president’s inflammatory rhetoric, highlighting a statement he made on Friday morning that “every legal vote should be counted “.
There were, however, more indirect signs that Senate Republicans were coming out of the Trump years. Mr Graham, an ally of the president who just won re-election in a big way, said he did not assume Mr Trump lost but admitted he was keen to work on immigration and infrastructure and that he also believed Mr. Biden deserved to have his cabinet confirmed.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Mr Biden the obvious winner at his weekly press conference, telling reporters he would take office with a “huge term” to govern and referring to him as president-elect , although Mr. Biden himself has yet to do so. declared victory.
As Democrats set up a massive legal operation to take Mr. Trump to court, Biden’s campaign on Friday took a dismissive tone of the president’s search and portrayed him as a painful loser instead. as a threat to the democratic process.
Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for Mr. Biden, suggested that if Mr. Trump refused to concede an election he lost, then “the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting intruders out of the House. White ”.
Reporting was produced by Nick Corasaniti in Philadelphia, Emily Cochrane in Washington, DC, Maggie Haberman in New York, Katie Glueck in Wilmington, Del., David Philips in Las Vegas, Jennifer Medina in Phoenix and Sean Keenan in Atlanta.