Joe Biden has declared he is winning enough states to take the White House in America’s knife-edge election as the key battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Michigan were called for him.
Speaking in his home state of Delaware, the former vice president said he would not declare victory, but believed he was on course to get enough votes in the electoral college system to beat President Donald Trump.
Mr Biden said: “It is clear that we are winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
“I am not here to declare that we have won, but, I am here to report that when the count is finished we believe we will be the winners.”
It came as Mr Trump’s campaign announced it was suing to temporarily stop the vote count in Pennsylvania, claiming a lack of “transparency”, and that the president had also instigated legal action over ballot counting in Michigan.
Referring to the situation in Pennsylvania, Justin Clark, Mr Trump’s deputy campaign manager, said the president’s camp is “suing to stop Democrat election officials from hiding the ballot counting and processing from our Republican poll observers”.
He said the campaign wanted to “temporarily halt counting until there is meaningful transparency and Republicans can ensure all counting is done above board and by the law”.
Mr Trump’s campaign manager Bill Stepien said the campaign had taken legal action over ballots being counted in Michigan, and claimed the team “had not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations to observe the opening of ballots and the counting process, as guaranteed by Michigan law”.
He also said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing “irregularities” in several counties.
We are winning Pennsylvania big, but the PA Secretary of State just announced that there are “Millions of ballots left to be counted.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2020
Neither candidate had cleared the 270 electoral college votes needed to take the presidency a full day after election day, but Mr Biden reclaimed a key part of the “blue wall” that sent Mr Trump to the White House four years ago with Wisconsin and Michigan.
Only a handful of battleground states remain uncalled, including Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
President Trump had earlier falsely claimed victory and threatened to go to the US Supreme Court, as he warned that a “fraud on the American nation” was being carried out over the way votes were being counted.
Mr Biden’s campaign said the president’s extraordinary comments, made in the White House against a backdrop of US flags, were a “naked attempt to take away the democratic rights of American citizens”.
In a dramatic statement in the White House, Mr Trump said Tuesday’s election, which was characterised by a high number of mail-in and early votes, in part due to the coronavirus crisis, had been “an embarrassment to our country”.
“We were getting ready to win this election – frankly we did win this election,” Mr Trump said.
The president announced that “we will be going to the US Supreme Court, we want all voting to stop”.
Later on Wednesday he claimed that it was “very strange” that “surprise ballot dumps” had eroded his overnight lead in key states.
“How come every time they count mail-in ballot dumps they are so devastating in their percentage and power of destruction?” he said.
They are working hard to make up 500,000 vote advantage in Pennsylvania disappear — ASAP. Likewise, Michigan and others!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2020
Mr Trump has nominated three of the Supreme Court’s nine justices – including, controversially, Amy Coney Barrett, whose appointment was confirmed just a week before the election.
It is unclear what, if any, legal basis the president would have, with Mr Biden’s camp insisting that the law required every “duly cast vote” to be counted.
Mr Biden said: “We won’t rest until everyone’s vote is counted.”
His campaign had been braced for Mr Trump to seize on record numbers of postal votes to allege he was being cheated.
Mr Biden’s campaign chief Jen O’Malley Dillon said the Democrat was on a “clear path to victory” and would “garner more votes than any presidential candidate in history”.
Among the remaining undeclared states, Georgia is a “toss-up” and North Carolina is “really tight” but “probably leaning towards Trump right now”.
Ms O’Malley Dillon said: “Last night the president of the United States falsely claimed that he had won this race and then demanded that votes stop being counted.
“The American people get to pick their president, the president does not get to pick the people whose votes get counted.”
Further results in Nevada, where the two candidates are neck and neck, will not be announced until Thursday, leaving six college votes up for grabs.
Mr Biden has painted the election as the “battle for the soul” of the nation, saying democracy itself is at stake. Mr Trump reprised his “Make America Great Again” mantra during the bitter campaign.
Economic fairness and racial justice have been prominent issues in the election race.
Both men have also clashed over the Covid-19 response, as the nation reels from more than 230,000 coronavirus deaths and millions of job losses.
Steady queues of voters flocked to the polls on Tuesday after about 100 million Americans voted early, setting the nation on course for a record turnout figure.
Each state gets a number of electoral college votes roughly in line with its population and they largely hand them all to the winner in that state.
With 538 up for grabs across the country, 270 is the winning number.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to criticise Mr Trump’s actions in threatening court action, telling MPs: “We don’t comment as a UK Government on the democratic processes of our friends and allies.”