Donald Trump called for vote counting to be halted in several swing states as the US waited for results from a handful of battlegrounds that will decide the presidential election.
As of early Thursday afternoon, Democratic challenger Joe Biden was within six electoral votes of victory while Mr Trump’s thin lead in two swing states, Georgia and Pennsylvania, appeared to be narrowing.
Victory in Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday pushed Mr Biden to 264 in the race for the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the presidency.
Mr Trump leads his rival in Georgia but Democrats were increasingly optimistic about the southern state because the remaining votes to be counted were mostly from heavily Democratic counties.
“STOP THE COUNT!” Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday, as his campaign pressed lawsuits in several states in an effort to stop the processing of postal ballots, which appear to favour the Democrat.
Mr Trump was leading in Pennsylvania, but his edge was rapidly eroding as votes were counted in Philadelphia, a large, heavily Democratic city.
The Trump campaign is taking legal action to halt the counting of absentee ballots in Pennsylvania, which accepts postal votes received before the end of Friday. With 20 electoral college votes, Pennsylvania is the largest swing state of the undecided contests. The Trump campaign has also fired off lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia.
Mr Biden called for his supporters to be calm. “Be patient, folks,” he tweeted. “Votes are being counted, and we feel good about where we are.”
Kathy Boockvar, the Pennsylvania secretary of state, told CNN the “overwhelming majority” of outstanding votes would be counted by the end of Thursday, raising the possibility that the election could be decided before Friday.
Victory in Pennsylvania would hand the White House to Mr Biden, but Mr Trump needs to win more than just the eastern state to secure re-election.
Ms Boockvar said the number of postal ballots that were arriving after election day was not large, which complicates Mr Trump’s strategy of trying to invalidate those votes in an effort to win in Pennsylvania.
Fresh focus was directed on Arizona after dozens of Trump supporters, including some carrying weapons, demonstrated outside a counting centre on Wednesday evening.
The Associated Press, which the Financial Times relies on for election data, and Fox News have called the state for Mr Biden. But other US television networks have determined it is too close to call.
Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr Biden’s campaign manager, expressed confidence that the former vice-president would win Arizona, but cautioned that the final results might not come until Friday. She was also optimistic about Pennsylvania and said Mr Biden had the edge in Georgia.
Mr Trump had a strong early lead in Georgia as votes from conservative parts of the state, which has not voted for a Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1996, were tabulated. But Mr Biden has closed the gap as votes from the heavily African-American and Democratic counties around Atlanta are counted.
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The Biden campaign said it was also confident of winning Nevada, where Mr Biden held a narrow lead of less than 12,000 votes with 87 per cent of the votes counted. Success in Nevada with its six electoral college votes, would carry him to victory and make him the 46th US president.
Two days after the election, the US remained on course for record turnout, including 100m people who voted early because of fears about catching Covid-19 at polling stations.
US stocks rose sharply for the second day as investors positioned their portfolios to reflect rising chances of Mr Biden winning but his Democratic party failing to take control of the Senate.
The S&P 500 had risen 1.9 per cent by lunchtime on Wall Street, leaving the index up 4 per cent over the two trading sessions following election day.
Big technology groups have helped fuel gains as money managers shift to anticipating sluggish growth, lower interest rates and further stimulus measures from the Fed, — an environment that has this year benefited the sector.
Additional reporting by Adam Samson in London
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