Published: 12:52 PM, 04 November 2020
Janomot report: US President Donald Trump claimed he had defeated Democratic challenger Joe Biden early on Wednesday morning (Nov 4), even though results from several battleground states that could swing the election had yet to be called.
Mr Trump said he would go to the Supreme Court to halt the counting of votes, accusing the Democrats - without evidence - of “fraud on the American public”.
Meanwhile, Mr Biden told his supporters that he believed he was on track to win the election and urged that every vote be counted.
Neither candidate has the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election yet, in a very close race that will likely come down to the wire in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, which were not expected to finish counting their votes until Wednesday or even Friday.
Vote counting often goes on for days after Election Day in the US, particularly so this year given the pandemic, which produced a surge of mail-in ballots that take longer to count.
“Frankly, we did win this election,” said Mr Trump, speaking to supporters at the White House.
“Millions of people voted for us today,” he said. “A very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people, and we will not stand for it.”
Mr Trump said that the results had been “phenomenal” and that he was winning Pennsylvania by “a tremendous amount”.
He had been getting ready to go outside and celebrate, but it was suddenly called off, he added.
But the President's premature declaration was dismissed by his ally and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who told ABC News: "There’s just no basis to make that argument tonight. There just isn’t."
Facebook also swung into action to add labels to social media posts from the two presidential candidates as a reminder that vote counting is still underway.
"Once President Trump began making premature claims of victory, we started running notifications on Facebook and Instagram that votes are still being counted and a winner is not projected," said Facebook. "We're also automatically applying labels to both candidates’ posts with this information."
“The President’s statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement as the election remained undecided.
“We have legal teams standing by ready to deploy to resist... and they will prevail,” Dillon said
The Democratic candidate earlier in the night had called for patience.
"We knew because of the unprecedented mail-in vote it's going to take awhile," he said. "It ain't over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted."
"We knew this would go on, but who knew we would go into maybe tomorrow morning, maybe longer," Mr Biden said as he stood beside his wife, Jill, on an outdoor stage in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, half an hour past midnight.
In a sign of how close the race has been, the only Electoral College vote to flip so far came from a congressional district in Nebraska that backed Mr Biden after favouring Mr Trump in 2016, Bloomberg reported.
Mr Trump won Florida, a crucial prize in the race to the White House that closed off former vice-president Biden’s hopes for an early knockout in the election.
The President also won Texas, which Democrats had hoped might turn blue and entirely reshape the electoral map.
Mr Trump significantly outperformed in one of Florida’s most populous counties, Miami-Dade.
After losing the county four years ago by 29 points, he lost by less than 8 to Mr Biden.
The county is diverse, with large Cuban and Venezuelan populations Mr Trump has courted by raising diplomatic and economic pressure on the socialist regimes in those countries.
He accused Mr Biden of sharing their politics.
Earlier, Mr Trump won Ohio and Mr Biden won Minnesota, states that each candidate had sought to take from the other but wound up politically unchanged from 2016.
Ohio was the first of several battleground states decided in the race.
Fox News and NBC News each called it for the incumbent just before midnight on Tuesday.
Mr Biden campaigned in the state the day before the election.
Mr Trump held multiple campaign rallies in Minnesota, a state he narrowly lost to Mrs Hillary Clinton in 2016.
But Mr Biden’s strength in the urban parts of the state kept it in the Democratic column.
Mr Biden scored early wins in traditionally Democratic states, while Mr Trump won Republican strongholds, according to the Associated Press and networks.