In his first speech as president-elect, Joe Biden vowed to unite Americans after a deeply divisive election.
“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, who doesn’t see red states and blue states — only sees the United States — and work with all my heart, with the confidence of the whole people, to win the confidence of all of you,” he said.
Vice-president-elect Kamala Harris, who took the stage before Biden, said that while she may be the first woman in the office, she won’t be the last.
“Every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities,” she said.
The bitterly contested campaign came to an end four days after election night as Biden secured critical victories over Trump in the battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
The Associated Press has projected Biden will win at least 290 electoral votes, with races in a few states still too close to call.
Trump has not yet conceded the election.
By Saturday at 9:30 p.m. the president-elect was also winning the popular vote by more than 4.3 million votes.
Biden has garnered a historic 75,034,280 votes with ballots still being counted in some areas.
From the very beginning of his campaign, Biden fixated on winning back these three states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — crucial parts of the so-called “blue wall,” a collection of states that prior to Trump’s 2016 victory had traditionally voted Democrat.
The Democratic nominee surpassed the 270 electoral votes on Saturday just before 11:30 ET with a victory in Pennsylvania, as projected by the Associated Press.
Election Day in America panned out as many had expected. Vote margins were exceedingly tight in states across the country — and some still are.
In Pennsylvania, Biden now leads by more than 37,000 votes. Trump, who held a lead over Biden on Wednesday and Thursday, saw that lead fall early Friday. The late-counted ballots were overwhelmingly in Biden’s favour.
He also overtook Trump in Georgia — a must-win state for Trump — with a 9,160-vote advantage. But the margins are so close that state election officials expect there will be a recount.
Before a clear winner was determined, Trump falsely and prematurely claimed victory over Biden multiple times. As his pathway to reelection appeared to shrink, Trump hurled unfounded accusations of voter fraud and threatened to take the results to the U.S. Supreme Court. A surge of lawsuits challenging the validity of vote-counting has followed. Many of them have since been shot down.
Trump was golfing on Saturday as the news of Biden’s projected victory broke.
Moments after Biden was projected to be the winner of the race, Trump issued a statement saying the president-elect was “rushing to falsely pose as the winner.”
“The simple fact is this election is far from over,” he wrote. “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.”
Trump said beginning Monday his campaign will “start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.”
While the Trump team has filed a handful of lawsuits, election officials across the country maintain that there is no indication of any alleged voter fraud.
He still had not conceded by Saturday afternoon, when he took to Twitter to repeat false claims he “won the election.”
In his speech, Biden said he was given and clear and convincing victory. In recognition of the fractured political climate, he pleaded with the millions who voted for Trump to give him a chance.
“It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again. Listen to each other again. And to make progress, we have to stop treating our opponents as our enemies,” he said.
Biden, 77, has been steeped in American politics for a half-century. Prior to Election Day 2020 he was a twice-failed presidential candidate, a former U.S. vice president, and a six-term senator.
His win is seen as a bridge back to a pre-Trump version of governance, with promises to build on the Obama legacy and to unite the country amid a challenging time.
Still, his campaign had its hiccups. He managed to stay steady while coming under criticism for a cautious public campaign schedule, an old-school approach and, at times, an unfocused message.
But, unlike past races, this year’s push for the presidency was upended by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s become the defining element of the 2020 campaign.
Biden — in sharp contrast with his opponent — has trusted scientists on the realities of the coronavirus. He has promised to elevate the government’s scientists and doctors to communicate consistent messaging to the public, and has plans for the U.S. to rejoin the World Health Organization, which Trump cut ties with.
He has been sharply critical of Trump’s response to the virus, often accusing him of reacting too slowly and ultimately not doing enough to curb the crisis.
In his speech, Biden said he would spare no effort to get the pandemic under control He said he’ll be naming a group of transition advisors — including scientists and experts — on Monday.
The campaign was also embroiled in a national conversation around race. The fight for racial equality and justice surged this year following the death of George Floyd and several other Black Americans at the hands of police.
But his campaign was underscored by selecting California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, after pledging to choose a woman for the role in March. It made Harris the first Black woman to join a major party’s national ticket, and now, the first Black woman (and first East-Indian American) to be elected vice-president.
In her victory address, Harris paid tribute to the generations of women who came before her and paved the way, as well as her mother who moved to the U.S. at age 19 from India.
“She maybe didn’t quite imagine this moment, but she believed so deeply in an America where a moment like this is possible,” she said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was among the leaders offering congratulations to Biden and Harris.
“Our two countries are close friends, partners and allies,” he wrote. “We share a relationship that’s unique on the world stage. I’m really looking forward to working together and building on that with you both.”
Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada Erin O’Toole offered his congratulations to Biden and Harris too.
“Canada and the U.S. have a historic alliance,” he wrote in a tweet. “Canada’s Conservatives will always work with the U.S. to advance our common values and close economic ties.”
Former U.S. president Barack Obama released a statement saying he “could not be prouder” to congratulate Biden, Harris and their families.
But Obama said the election results show the U.S. remains “deeply and bitterly divided.”
“It will be up to not just Joe and Kamala, but each of us, to do our part – to reach out beyond our comfort zone, to listen to others, to lower the temperature and find some common ground from which to move forward, all of us remembering that we are one nation, under God,” he said.
In a tweet, former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the voters have spoken.”
“And they have chosen @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris to be our next president and vice president.”
“It’s a history-making ticket, a repudiation of Trump, and a new page for America,” she wrote.
Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi congratulated Biden and Harris, adding that the party has “kept the republic!”
“It’s a time to heal and a time to grow together,” she wrote.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said he and his wife extended their congratulations to Biden and Harris.
“We know both of them as people of good will and admirable character,” he wrote on Twitter. “We pray that God may bless them in the days and years ahead.”
Large-scale celebrations have broken out in several of the country’s largest cities. Crowds of cheering and dancing Americans have gathered in New York City, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia to mark Biden’s victory.
–With files from The Associated Press