Race unsettled as Trump and Biden split swing states, vote counting continues

Alex Seitz-Wald

WASHINGTON — Counting continues in the 2020 presidential election on Wednesday after President Donald Trump won key battleground states like Florida, Ohio and others, while Joe Biden carried Minnesota and New Hampshire and leads in Arizona, NBC News projects.

No winner was called Tuesday night as Democrats failed to land the decisive early knockout blow they were hoping for and Republicans did not see the flood of new voters that the president had promised would show up on Election Day.

Still, Trump overperformed polls and expectations while a massive surge in mail-in ballots and rules restricting when officials could begin processing them delaying the vote counts, which will continue into in coming hours and days.

The race now appears to hinge on a familiar a set of places — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — the three historically Democratic states that put Trump in the White House four years ago when he narrowly won them.

But North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada also remain too close to call, according to NBC News, and various combinations of any of them could determine the future of the country.

On Wednesday, NBC News projected that Biden would win Maine and with it three of the state's four Electoral College votes. Trump collected the fourth, NBC News projects.

Trump had to win Florida to have any real shot at re-election, most analysts agree, while Biden has multiple paths to victory that do not include the state.

In the Electoral College, Biden has 237 votes while Trump has 214. It takes 270 to win the White House.

In the national popular vote, with an estimated nearly 25 million votes still to be counted, Biden had 67.7 million votes or 50 percent to Trump's 65.5 million or 48.4 percent. Another 2.2 million voted for third-party or write-in candidates.

With 89 percent of the expected vote counted in Wisconsin, Biden had 49.3 percent to Trump's 49 percent, with much of the still-outstanding vote coming from Democratic-leaning areas like Green Bay and Kenosha.

Trump won Florida 51.2 to 47.8 percent with 96 percent of the expected vote in. He claimed Ohio 53.3 percent to 45.2 percent with 90 percent in. He also won Texas and Iowa by similar margins, NBC News projects.

Biden won Minnesota 52.7 to 45.3 percent with 93 percent of the expected vote in and he leads in Arizona 51.8 to 46.8 percent with 82 percent of the expected vote counted, according to NBC News.

He also picked up one electoral vote from a congressional district in Omaha, Nebraska, which could be critical in a tight race. And the Democrat notched expected wins in Virginia, Colorado and New Mexico.

Biden spoke to supporters after midnight in Wilmington, Delaware, saying he was feeling confident despite failing to deliver the early knock-out blow his campaign had hoped for.

"Keep the faith, guys. We're gonna win this," Biden told supporters, striking an upbeat tone as speakers blared the Jackie Wilson classic "Higher And Higher."

He said results could come as soon as Wednesday morning, but that it might take longer.

"We believe we're on track to win this election," he said. "We knew because of the unprecedented early vote and mail-in vote, it's gonna take awhile. We're going to have to be patient until the hard work of tallying votes is finished."

Trump, meanwhile, also addressed supporters.

Shortly after 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday and with millions of votes left to be counted, Trump falsely claimed he won the presidential election.

"This is a fraud on the American public," he told supporters and members of the media in a White House address. "This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election, frankly, we did win this election."

He then vowed to take legal action to stop "all voting."

In Pennsylvania, Trump said the Democrats "aren't even close" because he currently holds a lead of just over 600,000 votes with about 75 percent of the expected vote in.

Biden's campaign responded by calling Trump's statements "outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect."

"It was outrageous because it is a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens," said Biden campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon. "It was unprecedented because never before in our history has a president of the United States sought to strip Americans of their voice in a national election."

Much of the remaining vote to be counted in Pennsylvania is of the early-and-mail-in variety, which skews heavily toward Democrats. It's also coming from areas like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, the two biggest sources of Democratic votes in the state.

For instance, Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, said it suspended scanning mail-in ballots until 10 a.m. Wednesday with 146,537 ballots have yet to be counted.

It's a similar story in other battleground states, where major cities often take longer to count votes given the volume they have to process. In Wisconsin, Milwaukee officials have yet to finish counting their ballots, which are expected to break overwhelmingly for Biden.

Both states have Democratic governors who tried to allow election officials to begin processing mail-in ballots before Election Day given the expected surge during the pandemic, but they were blocked by their GOP-controlled legislatures.

In Florida, Biden underperformed Hillary Clinton in Miami-Dade County, the state's biggest and home to a large Cuban-American community that Republicans had targeted. But Biden ran better than Clinton did in 2016 in other counties.

Meanwhile, in the battle for the Senate, Democrats will have a hard time netting the four Senate seats (or three if Biden wins the presidency) they need to take control of the chamber.

While John Hickenlooper defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, Democrat Doug Jones lost re-election in Alabama and Republican incumbents fended off challenges in Iowa, South Carolina, Kentucky and Texas, according to NBC News.

Critical races in Arizona, Maine and North Carolina have yet to be called while a contested Senate race in Georgia appears headed for a runoff election in January.

More than 100 million voted early this year, doubling the total from 2016, but millions more headed to the polls on Election Day to vote in-person even as cases surged in the worst pandemic in a century.

Early NBC News exit polls show the economy, racial justice and Covid-19 are top concerns while the vast majority of voters said they made up their minds a while ago and just four percent said they decided whom to vote for in the past week, down from 13 percent who were late-deciders in 2016.

Despite fears of massive voter fraud or voter intimidation schemes, polling places appeared to be mostly quiet across the country and few reports of long lines. Still, the post-election period is when many have warned of civil unrest as businesses boarded up their storefronts in anticipation of chaos.