Joe Biden was elected the 46th president of the US, pledging to tackle the pandemic and restore the soul of America in a victory that signalled the end of one of the most tumultuous periods in the country’s history.
Mr Biden was declared president-elect four days after polls closed, marking the conclusion of a bitter race against President Donald Trump that was fought against the backdrop of the pandemic, which has killed more than 228,000 Americans.
His victory means that Mr Trump will be a one-term president whose four-year tenure will be bookended by two Democrats — Barack Obama and now Mr Biden, who served as vice-president between 2008 and 2016.
After winning a shock victory in 2016, Mr Trump, a New York property developer-turned-reality television star, took aim at the norms of American politics with a populist domestic agenda and an antagonistic “America First” stance abroad.
Mr Biden, a 77-year-old son of working-class Scranton, Pennsylvania, became the oldest candidate elected to the presidency. Having served for nearly four decades in the US Senate and eight years as Mr Obama’s vice-president, Mr Biden promised to unify the nation after the tumult of the Trump years.
Kamala Harris, his running mate, will be the first African-American woman and first person of Indian descent to serve as vice-president.
In a statement, Mr Biden said he was “honoured and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in” him and Ms Harris. “In the face of unprecedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again, that democracy beats deep in the heart of America.”
He added: “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. We are the United States of America. And there’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.”
In a tweet, Ms Harris said: “This election is about so much more than Joe Biden or me. It’s about the soul of America and our willingness to fight for it. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Let’s get started.”
The Associated Press declared that Mr Biden had won the presidency by capturing the battleground state of Pennsylvania roughly an hour after Mr Trump arrived at his golf course in Virginia, just across the Potomac river from the White House.
Mr Trump issued a statement within minutes of the AP declaration in which he accused Mr Biden of “rushing to falsely pose as the winner” with the help of his “media allies”.
The president added: “The simple fact is this election is far from over. 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.”
Mr Trump was the first US president to fail in his bid for re-election since George HW Bush in 1992. He repeatedly mocked his rival during the campaign, telling supporters at a rally that he might leave the US if he lost to Mr Biden, who he calls “Sleepy Joe”.
With ballots still being counted across the country, Mr Biden had received more votes than any presidential candidate in history — over 74m, about 4m more than Mr Trump.
In addition to being declared victor in Pennsylvania on Friday, the long-watched contest in Nevada was also called in his favour. In all, the president-elect flipped four states Mr Trump won in 2016 — giving him 290 electoral votes, 20 more than he needs — and maintains a narrow lead in Georgia.
In remarks on Friday night, Mr Biden said Americans had given him a “mandate for action” on everything from the coronavirus pandemic and the economy to climate change and racism. “They made it clear they want the country to come together — not pull apart.”
“We rebuilt the ‘blue wall’ in the middle of the country that crumbled just four years ago,” Mr Biden added, in a reference to his victories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton lost those states to Mr Trump in 2016.
Pollsters had predicted that Mr Biden would cruise to a landslide victory and that the Democrats would win control of the Senate, but he and his party look set to fall short of those projections.
“We don’t have any more time to waste on partisan warfare,” Mr Biden said, underscoring the degree to which he will have to work with Republicans if he is to achieve his aims.
Mr Biden’s election followed a drawn-out counting process after a record number of Americans cast postal ballots to avoid crowds during the pandemic. Some states’ election rules prevented them from tabulating those votes until election day, setting the stage for the days-long delay.
Despite the threat of coronavirus, overall turnout in the vote that ended on Tuesday was also expected to reach levels not seen in a century.
During the Democratic primary, Mr Biden argued that he was the best candidate to win back the working-class Democrats who deserted the party in 2016 and helped Mr Trump win rustbelt states in the industrial north.
“For the last two years, I have been saying the single most important battleground state is Pennsylvania. This is where the Biden campaign held its official kick-off,” said Brendan Boyle, a Pennsylvania congressman. “So it is only fitting that it is Pennsylvania that officially puts us over the top.”
In Pennsylvania, Mr Trump took a large early lead after the polls closed, but Mr Biden recovered with the help of postal votes. On Saturday afternoon, he led Mr Trump with a margin of just over 34,000 votes, a lead that is expected to expand as the vote count continues. Four years ago, Mr Trump beat Mrs Clinton by just over 44,000 votes in the state.
Mr Biden was also buoyed by African-Americans voters in large US cities, including Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee and Atlanta.
The general election marked the second time this year that black voters had proved critical to Mr Biden’s fortunes. During the race for the Democratic nomination, Mr Biden was on the verge of a complete implosion until African-American votes in the South Carolina primary and on Super Tuesday carried him to victory and resurrected his campaign.
Thus far, Mr Trump’s legal efforts to stop Mr Biden’s march to the White House have been met with limited success. Judges in Georgia and Michigan have dismissed Republican lawsuits alleging election misconduct, and in Pennsylvania the Trump campaign managed to win only a short pause in the Philadelphia vote count.
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