Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States after crossing 270 electoral votes, the Associated Press said, following a campaign in which he focused on tackling the coronavirus pandemic and pledged to unite a deeply divided nation that voted in record numbers on each side.
The AP declared Mr. Biden the 46th president after saying he had won Pennsylvania four days after Election Day polls closed.
President Trump hasn’t conceded the race. His campaign has filed lawsuits to contest the vote-counting process in several states, though it was unclear whether any, if successful, would meaningfully change a state’s results. The campaign has called for a recount in Wisconsin.
Mr. Biden won by securing a slate of states won by Hillary Clinton in 2016 plus Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which voted last time for Mr. Trump.
The Democratic ticket’s victory also makes Sen. Kamala Harris of California the first woman ever elected as vice president. She was the first Black woman and first of Indian descent nominated on a major party’s ticket, and would be the highest-ranking woman ever in the presidential line of succession as of the inauguration in January.
“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris,” Mr. Biden—who was at home in Wilmington, Del., when the race was called—said in a statement. “In the face of unprecedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again, that democracy beats deep in the heart of America. With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal.”
Mr. Biden is expected to give remarks Saturday evening at an outdoor event in Wilmington.
“Joe Biden has not been certified as the winner of any states, let alone any of the highly contested states headed for mandatory recounts, or states where our campaign has valid and legitimate legal challenges that could determine the ultimate victor,” the president said in a statement after he arrived at his golf course outside Washington Saturday.
“Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.”
The AP’s tally of votes remains preliminary until certified by individual states. The Electoral College votes in December, and the final results are announced in Congress in January.
The AP on Saturday also declared Mr. Biden the winner in Nevada, where the vote count had been close. Counting continued in Georgia and North Carolina, where the news organization has not called the race.
Mr. Trump’s advisers privately have been urging him to prepare for a loss, according to people familiar with those conversations. Campaign officials met Thursday with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and determined they had pursued every legal option at that point.
Mr. Biden’s win caps a bitter and unusual campaign, the first in more than a century conducted amid a pandemic, in which some 100 million ballots were believed to have been cast before Election Day.
Mr. Biden, a longtime Washington figure who is 77 years old, campaigned with a promise to soothe a politically fractured nation, offering an alternative to Mr. Trump’s tumultuous governing style. A Biden administration faces major challenges in the White House, from containing a coronavirus pandemic that is setting new records for daily infections to restoring a struggling economy.
While final results are still being tallied, Mr. Biden also faces a potentially divided government in Washington that could challenge his ability to enact some of his ambitious plans around taxes, health care and the environment.
Democrats appear likely to hold a narrower majority in the House of Representatives after losing seats to Republicans. Two runoff contests in Georgia left control of the Senate uncertain, though Republicans were optimistic they would keep their majority.
The hard-fought race reflected a politically polarized country. A handful of states required extra time to tally a surge in mail ballots as voters sought to avoid polling places.
The country remains mired in the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed about 235,000 lives and a recession with 10 million fewer jobs than pre-pandemic levels. The racial-justice protests that have at times sparked violence in major U.S. cities have been viewed differently by many Democrats and Republicans, highlighting cultural divides in the country. Mr. Biden focused much of his campaign message on the idea that he would be a steadier leader than Mr. Trump.
As of Saturday, Mr. Biden had won a record of 74.8 million votes across the nation, according to the AP tally. In a sign of the country’s deep divide, Mr. Trump’s popular-vote count, 70.5 million, was the second-highest ever received by a presidential candidate, exceeding the previous record of 69.5 million held by former President Barack Obama in the 2008 election.
“Democracy is sometimes messy. It sometimes requires a little patience, as well,” Mr. Biden said in Wilmington, Del., Thursday evening. “But that patience has been rewarded now for more than 240 years with a system of governance that’s been the envy of the world.”
A plurality of voters, 41%, said coronavirus was the top issue facing the country, and Mr. Biden won three quarters of those Americans, according to the AP VoteCast survey of more than 110,000 voters.
T he race was closer in some key states than polls suggested ahead of Election Day, and both sides have been raising money for the possibility of an extended legal fight.
The Trump campaign disputed the decision by the AP and Fox News to call Arizona and its 11 electoral votes for Mr. Biden. The campaign also called for a recount in Wisconsin, where candidates can ask the state to double check ballots if the final margin is within 1 percentage point.
The AP is widely seen as a definitive source of election results.
In Pennsylvania, the Trump campaign asked the Supreme Court for permission to intervene in a pending Republican appeal to pull back the state’s three-day extended deadline for accepting ballots mailed by Election Day.
In Georgia, a judge dismissed a lawsuit aimed at stopping late-arriving mail-in ballots from being counted, and a Michigan judge on Thursday denied a legal effort by the Trump campaign to halt the counting of absentee ballots in the state.
The former vice president flipped Wisconsin and Michigan by winning support from suburban voters who had backed Mr. Trump four years ago and driving up turnout among Black voters in urban areas. He also became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Arizona since 1996, narrowly winning voters with a high school diploma or less education, according to VoteCast.
Mr. Biden’s win appeared to fall short of the kind of blue wave Democrats had pinned their hopes on in the final stretch of the race.
Mr. Trump’s loss halts a historic streak of three consecutive two-term presidents. He held on to Ohio, Iowa, Texas and the key prize of Florida, all states where Democrats invested millions and sought to expand their electoral map. He also made inroads with Latino voters, particularly in Florida and Texas.
Mr. Biden campaigned as a consensus builder, vowing to serve as a president for all Americans instead of just his fellow Democrats. That style of governing—drawn from his 36-year career in the U.S. Senate, in which compromise was traditionally rewarded over partisanship—will face immediate pressure from a more liberal wing of his party seeking to capitalize on momentum after winning the White House in three of the past four elections.
He also described himself as a transitional figure in his party, a bridge to a younger generation of progressive and racially diverse Democratic leaders. Many of these leaders have called for more comprehensive changes, setting the stage for a showdown on climate policy, Medicare expansion and increasing the size of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Mr. Biden is the first person since Ronald Reagan to win the presidency on his third try. He made unsuccessful attempts to capture the Democratic nomination in 1988 and 2008. He will be the oldest person ever elected to the White House.
Written By Michael C. Bender & Sabrina Siddiqui