Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, positioning himself to lead a nation gripped by historic pandemic and a confluence of economic and social turmoil.
His victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed the processing of some ballots. Biden crossed 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania.
Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. The strategy proved effective, resulting in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, onetime Democratic bastions that had flipped to Trump in 2016.
Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.
Trump seized on delays in processing the vote in some states to falsely allege voter fraud and argue that his rival was trying to seize power — an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.
Gov. Kristi Noem tweeted unproven claims Thursday afternoon that election systems were “rigged." Her tweets came hours ahead of President Trump's news conference in which he delivered multiple false statements about the election and democratic process as Former Vice President Joe Biden surged ahead in polls and projections.
“Donald Trump has been fighting the establishment, the mainstream media, and now rigged election systems on behalf of the American people and our way of life,” she said.
The ballot-counting process across the country largely has been running smoothly with no evidence of widespread fraud or problems, the AP reports.
Noem’s communications director, Ian Fury, tweeted the same views as his employer: “Don’t rig elections, and we won’t call them ‘rigged,’” he said on Twitter.
When the Journal asked in an email to Fury why he and Noem believe the election is rigged, and whether they could cite any specific evidence of that, Fury said “compared to South Dakota’s fair and transparent election system, it has been made clear to everyone that the systems in many of these states lack integrity.”
“The Trump campaign’s lawsuits spell those specifics out in great detail,” Fury said when asked to provide further evidence.
Trump and allies have offered no evidence of irregularities, the Washington Post reported, and their lawsuits were dismissed in both Georgia and Michigan as election officials testified there was no evidence that ballots had arrived late in Georgia, and that the request made little sense in Michigan where counting was finished with Biden pulling ahead by 150,000 votes.
Trump’s campaign has also demanded recounts or legal challenges in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nevada and Maricopa County in Arizona, claiming large numbers of Republican ballots were invalidated.
Sen. Mike Rounds said in an email to the Journal that “instances in which the vote count was not monitored must be corrected,” and echoed statements from Trump that legal votes must be counted.
“The courts must also be ready to step in if there are voter fraud allegations that need to be resolved,” Rounds said without providing specific examples or evidence of the voter fraud allegations. “All of this is necessary to protect the integrity of our election process and make certain the American people have faith in the results.”
Sen. John Thune echoed Trump’s and Rounds’ sentiments on Twitter, and said the goal is to “make sure every legal vote is counted, and counted accurately.” Thune’s office has not responded to requests for specific instances of voter fraud.
Rep. Dusty Johnson tweeted late Thursday that “it’s important legal ballots be counted and improper ballots be investigated,” but his office has not responded to requests for more information on the “improper ballots.”
As the vote count played out, Biden tried to ease tensions and project an image of presidential leadership, hitting notes of unity that were seemingly aimed at cooling the temperature of a heated, divided nation.
“We have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total unrelenting, unending warfare,” Biden said Friday night in Delaware. “No, the purpose of our politics, the work of our nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to give everybody a fair shot.”
Kamala Harris also made history as the first Black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the U.S. faces a reckoning on racial justice. The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992. It was unclear whether Trump would publicly concede.
Americans showed deep interest in the presidential race. A record 103 million voted early this year, opting to avoid waiting in long lines at polling locations during a pandemic. With counting continuing in some states, Biden had already received more than 74 million votes, more than any presidential candidate before him.
More than 236,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 million have been infected and millions of jobs have been lost. The final days of the campaign played out against the backdrop of a surge in confirmed cases in nearly every state, including battlegrounds such as Wisconsin that swung to Biden.
The pandemic will soon be Biden’s to tame, and he campaigned pledging a big government response, akin to what Franklin D. Roosevelt oversaw with the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s. But Senate Republicans fought back several Democratic challengers and looked to retain a fragile majority that could serve as a check on such Biden ambition.
The 2020 campaign was a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has shuttered schools across the nation, disrupted businesses and raised questions about the feasibility of family gatherings heading into the holidays.
The fast spread of the coronavirus transformed political rallies from standard campaign fare to gatherings that were potential public health emergencies. It also contributed to an unprecedented shift to voting early and by mail and prompted Biden to dramatically scale back his travel and events to comply with restrictions. Trump defied calls for caution and ultimately contracted the disease himself. He was saddled throughout the year by negative assessments from the public of his handling of the pandemic.
Biden also drew a sharp contrast to Trump through a summer of unrest over the police killings of Black Americans including Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Their deaths sparked the largest racial protest movement since the civil rights era. Biden responded by acknowledging the racism that pervades American life, while Trump emphasized his support of police and pivoted to a “law and order” message that resonated with his largely white base.
The president’s most ardent backers never wavered and may remain loyal to him and his supporters in Congress after Trump has departed the White House.
The third president to be impeached, though acquitted in the Senate, Trump will leave office having left an indelible imprint in a tenure defined by the shattering of White House norms and a day-to-day whirlwind of turnover, partisan divide and the ever-present threat via his Twitter account.
Biden, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Delaware, was one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the Senate. Before he took office, his wife and daughter were killed, and his two sons badly injured in a 1972 car crash.
Commuting every night on a train from Washington back to Wilmington, Biden fashioned an everyman political persona to go along with powerful Senate positions, including chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. Some aspects of his record drew critical scrutiny from fellow Democrats, including his support for the 1994 crime bill, his vote for the 2003 Iraq War and his management of the Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings.
Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign was done in by plagiarism allegations, and his next bid in 2008 ended quietly. But later that year, he was tapped to be Barack Obama’s running mate and he became an influential vice president, steering the administration’s outreach to both Capitol Hill and Iraq.
While his reputation was burnished by his time in office and his deep friendship with Obama, Biden stood aside for Clinton and opted not to run in 2016 after his adult son Beau died of brain cancer the year before.
Trump’s tenure pushed Biden to make one more run as he declared that “the very soul of the nation is at stake.”
Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!
Stay up-to-date on the latest in local and national government and political topics with our newsletter.