2020 election results: Biden leads in Pennsylvania, Georgia

Joe Biden is leading President Trump in Pennsylvania, a state that would give the former vice president the electoral votes to win the presidency, and his campaign prepared to claim victory after days of prolonged vote counting.

The lead change in Pennsylvania came Friday morning, just hours after Biden overtook Trump by the slimmest of margins in Georgia, moving ahead in a state that Democrats haven’t won in a presidential election since 1992.

Pennsylvania still has tens of thousands of ballots left to count, primarily from parts of the state that heavily favored Biden. His campaign is confident that his lead there is permanent and that he will soon be declaring he has won the presidency, perhaps with the state of his birth putting him over the top.

Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, will give a prime-time speech Friday night, a campaign spokesman said. They will be accompanied by their spouses, Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff.

Even as Trump lost his lead in Pennsylvania, he showed no sign of conceding, and his campaign insisted the president still had a shot at victory.

“This election is not over,” Matt Morgan, the campaign’s general counsel, said in a statement. “The false projection of Joe Biden as the winner is based on results in four states that are far from final.”

Biden spokesman Andrew Bates shot back with a touch of swagger: “The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”

Other battleground states with counting still in progress include two where Biden holds narrow leads: Arizona, where Trump made gains overnight, and Nevada.

If Biden maintains his position in the states he leads, he would end up with 306 electoral college votes, the same number Trump won in 2016 — which then-Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway tweeted at the time was a “Landslide. Blowout. Historic.” It takes 270 electoral votes to win the presidency.

Biden is on track to win with a significant majority of the popular vote, likely about a 5% margin; Trump lost the popular vote in 2016 to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Trump had led the vote count in Pennsylvania, a state that carried him to victory in 2016, since election day, when he was up by more than 700,000 votes. But the gap steadily narrowed as mail ballots from the state’s heavily Democratic metropolitan areas were counted. At stake in Pennsylvania is a trove of 20 electoral college votes.

Winning Pennsylvania, along with previously declared Wisconsin and Michigan, would be a fulfillment of Biden’s core strategic goal: rebuilding the “blue wall” of traditionally Democratic states in the industrial Midwest that Trump demolished in 2016.

But if Biden also wins in Georgia and Arizona, his will be a much broader victory, built not just on rebuilding the party’s traditional base, but also reaching into new, traditionally Republican territory in the Sun Belt.

Biden supporter Ron Russ walks through a crowd of hundreds of pro-Trump protesters gathered in the parking lot of the Maricopa County elections building in Phoenix on Friday.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

A victory in Arizona would be the fruit of Democrats’ appeal to Latino voters, even as Biden fell short of expectations among that diverse voting bloc in Florida and Texas.

A victory in Georgia, home state of the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis, would be an important breakthrough for Democrats hoping to make inroads in a changing South and a testament to the strong support Biden has received from Black voters.

Vote counting continued into its third post-election day, despite the Trump campaign’s multiple legal maneuvers to slow or block the tally and the president’s baseless claims of vote fraud.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday morning made a carefully worded statement on Twitter that did not openly challenge Trump but fell short of a full-throated endorsement of his claims.

“Here’s how this must work in our great country: Every legal vote should be counted,” McConnell said. “Any illegally-submitted ballots must not. All sides must get to observe the process. And the courts are here to apply the laws & resolve disputes.That’s how Americans’ votes decide the result.”

Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, in an interview on CBS on Friday morning, disputed the president’s claims of fraud and defended the integrity of his state’s vote count.

“I am not aware of any significant fraud, any significant wrongdoing,” said Toomey, who has announced he will not seek another term in 2022.

“If it’s happened, then the evidence needs to come out, we need to go to court, we need to punish the wrongdoers, we need to redress whatever went wrong. But I’m not aware of any such evidence.”

Philadelphia’s mayor on Friday pushed back against the Trump camp’s baseless allegations of fraud in the city’s ballot counting, and he called on the president to concede.

“I think what the president needs to do is, frankly, put his big-boy pants on,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at a news briefing at the city’s ballot counting center.

“He needs to acknowledge the fact that he lost, and he needs to congratulate the winner, just as Jimmy Carter did, just as George H. W. Bush did and, frankly, just as Al Gore did, and stop this and let us move forward as a country.”

Trump’s campaign “has not produced one iota of evidence” of election rigging, said Kinney, a Democrat.

Hundreds of police officers stood guard in Philadelphia as scores of anti-Trump protesters gathered outside the convention center where election workers were counting ballots. A white “Count Every Vote” banner spanned the street in front of the Reading Terminal Market.

Nearly half of the 690,000 ballots in Philadelphia were cast by mail in Philadelphia, far more than ever before, according to Lisa Deeley, a Democrat on the bipartisan election commission that oversees the city’s election.

With roughly 40,000 remaining ballots to be counted, the city’s voters have favored Biden over Trump, 80% to 18%. The city’s mail-in ballots have skewed even more in Biden’s favor: 92% for the former vice president, and 8% for Trump.

The count was a slow process, with each ballot needing to be removed from two envelopes, unfolded and scanned, and the eligibility of every voter checked.

In many states, those preliminary steps are done before election day, but in Pennsylvania, Republican legislators blocked efforts to change the law to allow processing of the ballots in advance, setting the stage for the long count that Trump and his supporters are now attacking.

Republican lawyers went to the Supreme Court on Friday afternoon seeking an order that would “segregate” mail ballots in the state that had arrived after Nov. 3 and prevent them from being counted. But Pennsylvania’s secretary of state has already ordered counties to “segregate” these ballots — which are not likely to prove significant to the outcome.

Trump’s campaign briefly slowed the Philadelphia vote counting Thursday after it won a court order allowing its poll watchers to observe the ballot tabulation more closely — six feet from the election workers.

Justin Clark, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, claimed Democrats were blocking the president’s observers and counting ballots “with zero transparency.” But Al Schmidt, the Republican on the three-member Philadelphia election commission, told CNN on Friday that Republican observers had never been denied access to observe the ballot count and had been there nonstop.

In Georgia, where Biden pulled ahead to a lead of about 1,600 votes, the presidential race will almost certainly go to a recount, said Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager for the secretary of state’s office. Under Georgia law, a losing candidate can request a recount if the margin of victory is 0.5% or less of the total vote.

On Thursday afternoon, Biden made a brief appearance in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., and urged patience as the election pushed through its second day of overtime.

“Each ballot must be counted,” he said at the Queen theater, a historic performing arts center downtown. “That’s what we’re going to see going through now. … Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience as well.”

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said, "Each ballot must be counted."

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said, “Each ballot must be counted.”

(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Biden expressed confidence that he and Harris would prevail. He once again avoided any declaration of victory, closing with a call for calm and an endorsement of the election’s integrity.

“The process is working,” Biden said. “The count is being completed, and we’ll know very soon.”

A subdued Trump responded hours later at the White House, where he made his accusations of voter fraud without offering any evidence.

“If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” he said. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.”

He was more pugnacious on Twitter. “Stop the count!” Trump demanded, as teams of lawyers around the country set out to do so. Several of the suits were quickly dismissed.

Protesters supporting both candidates have been gathering outside locations where vote counting was underway. There were demonstrations and counter-demonstrations across the country.

But the wreckage and ruin that many feared has not materialized. Instead, there was the quiet but deliberate work of whittling down mountains of mail-in ballots.

Biden had urged his supporters to vote before election day, to avoid the risk of crowding into polling places amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Trump discouraged his backers from mailing their votes, urging them to show up on Tuesday. In many states, those ballots were counted first, which is why the president jumped out to an early lead in contests that have since moved Biden’s way.

There was one bright spot for Trump: Arizona, where Biden’s lead fell to about 40,000 votes. The Associated Press and other news organizations called the state for Biden based on an analysis of returns that were tabulated and where the outstanding votes would come from.

But it was a thin reed of hope for the president. A Biden victory in Pennsylvania would give the former vice president a majority of electoral votes regardless of the Arizona outcome.

That did not stop the president from waging an effort to disenfranchise millions of Americans. Lawyers for Trump filed lawsuits in several states, alleging unspecified voting irregularities and seeking to bring the vote counting to a halt. Lawsuits were summarily dismissed in Michigan and Georgia.

Trump representatives — including former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell — have claimed Nevada’s election was riddled with fraud, an assertion disputed by Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria.

With some exceptions — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina among them — many top Republicans stayed silent or condemned Trump’s false claims. That left it mostly to the president’s die-hard supporters and commentators on Fox News, talk radio and other sympathetic outlets to make his case.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who briefly considered challenging Trump in the Republican primaries, was blunt in his criticism.

“There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process,” he tweeted. “America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before. No election or person is more important than our Democracy. “

Even Sean Spicer, who fiercely defended the president and his prevarications as White House press secretary, said in a SiriusXM interview that he had seen no evidence of mass fraud.

“You can’t just throw a term out there without being specific,” he said.

Hook reported from Washington, Finnegan from Philadelphia and Barabak from San Francisco. Times staff writers Chris Megerian in Washington, Brittny Mejia in Las Vegas, Melanie Mason in Wilmington and David Savage in Washington contributed to this report.