President Donald Trump has won the battleground of Florida and taken the lead over Democratic rival Joe Biden in other US swing states but Biden has voiced confidence he will win the election by taking three key Rust Belt states.
Biden’s hopes for a decisive early defeat of Trump faded as television networks projected the president won in Florida, a must-win state for Trump vital to his chances, and took leads in Georgia, Ohio and Texas.
Biden, 77, was eyeing the so-called “blue wall” states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania that sent Trump, 74, to the White House in 2016 for possible breakthroughs.
Trump held early leads in those three states, but much of that was built on Republican-heavy Election Day voting.
The counting of Democratic-heavy mail-in ballots in all three states was expected to take hours or days. In Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and much of Michigan, mail-in ballots were not processed until Election Day.
“We feel good about where we are,” Biden told supporters in his home state of Delaware. “We believe we’re on track to win this election.”
Winning those three states would be enough to give Biden an Electoral College victory. Fox News projected Biden would win Arizona, another state that voted for Trump in 2016, giving him more options to get to 270 Electoral College votes.
In Pennsylvania, of the 4.5 million votes counted so far, only 750,000 are absentee votes, or just 17 per cent. According to Edison Research, more than 2.4 million early ballots were cast in the state, of which nearly 1.6 million were by Democrats and about 555,000 by Republicans.
Even without Pennsylvania, Biden victories in Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as a congressional district in either Maine or Nebraska, which apportion their electoral votes by district, would put him in the White House, as long as he also holds the states that Trump lost in 2016.
“We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!” Trump said on Twitter, which swiftly tagged the tweet as possibly misleading.
Trump has repeatedly and without evidence suggested that an increase in mail-in voting will lead to an increase in fraud, although election experts say that fraud is rare.
There were no signs of disruptions or violence at polling sites, as some officials had feared.
Biden, the Democratic former vice president, put Trump’s handling of the pandemic at the centre of his campaign and had held a consistent lead in national opinion polls over the Republican president.