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US election: Which states do Biden and Trump need to claim in order to win?

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File: President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio. Sept. 29, 2020.
File: President Donald Trump, left, and former Vice President Joe Biden during the first presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio. Sept. 29, 2020.   -   Copyright  Patrick Semansky/AP
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With the result of the US presidential election on a knife-edge, President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are now battling for a handful of states that will prove crucial in determining who wins the White House.

The key states that the race now hinges upon are Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia.

Biden has been declared the winner in the “Blue Wall” battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan. If he is able to win Nevada, his count would be 270, which is what he needs to claim the White House.

Pennsylvania is an must-win for Trump. If he does not win the "keystone state" of Pennsylvania, he will not be able to reach 270.

And on Friday afternoon, the Republican's advantage eroded gradually until Biden took the lead around 1500 CET.

Georgia could go either way, although as of 3 pm CET on Friday, Biden was ahead by under 1,000 votes.

If Biden wins Georgia he would be over the line, with 280 electoral college votes, and outstanding ballots are still to be counted in counties where he has performed well. But if the majority is less than 0.5% Trump can - and likely will - request a recount.

Nevada has been among the slowest states to count, however, and Biden's lead is just one point with 84% of votes counted. It could still, theoretically, swing to Trump.

The reason for the delay in results from the state is because elections officials are not allowed to process mail-in ballots until election day under state law.

A final vote total may not even be clear for days because the use of mail-in ballots, which take more time to process, has surged as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

After a vote count that is reaching the 48-hour mark, a Biden landslide is off the table. The victory will be narrow. It's just a matter of who and how — and how long until we know.

That leaves North Carolina, where Trump has a 1.5% lead with 94% of the votes counted. 15 electoral votes are at stake here.

Florida goes for trump but Arizona becomes late focus

The margins were exceedingly tight, with the candidates trading wins in battleground states across the country. Trump picked up Florida, the largest of the swing states, while Biden is thought to have flipped Arizona, a state that has reliably voted Republican in recent elections.

The AP has projected Biden to be the winner in Arizona, although other networks have held back.

The AP called the race in Arizona for Biden at 2:50 a.m. EST Wednesday after an analysis of ballots cast statewide concluded Trump could not catch up in the ballots left to be counted.

Arizona has a long political history of voting Republican. It’s the home state of Barry Goldwater, a five-term, conservative senator who was the Republican nominee for president in 1964. John McCain, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, represented the state in Congress from 1983 until his 2018 death.

But changing demographics, including a fast-growing Latino population and a boom of new residents — some fleeing the skyrocketing cost of living in neighbouring California — have made the state friendlier to Democrats.

The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in the state.

Trump, in an extraordinary move from the White House, issued premature claims of victory on Wednesday and said he would take the election to the Supreme Court to stop the counting.

Biden, briefly appearing in front of supporters in Delaware, urged patience, saying the election "ain’t over until every vote is counted, every ballot is counted.”

“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who’s won this election,” Biden said. “That’s the decision of the American people.”

Pennsylvania mail-in voting

Several states allow mailed-in votes to be accepted after Election Day, as long as they were postmarked by Tuesday. That includes Pennsylvania, where ballots postmarked by November 3 can be accepted if they arrive up to three days after the election.

Trump has appeared to suggest those ballots should not be counted, and that he would fight for that outcome at the high court. But legal experts were dubious of Trump's declaration.

“I do not see a way that he could go directly to the Supreme Court to stop the counting of votes. There could be fights in specific states, and some of those could end up at the Supreme Court. But this is not the way things work,” said Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California-Irvine.

Trump has appointed three of the high court's nine justices including, most recently, Amy Coney Barrett.

Democrats typically outperform Republicans in mail voting, while the GOP looks to make up ground in Election Day turnout. That means the early margins between the candidates could be influenced by which type of votes — early or Election Day — were being reported by the states.

Throughout the campaign, Trump cast doubt about the integrity of the election and repeatedly suggested that mail-in ballots should not be counted. Both campaigns had teams of lawyers at the ready to move into battleground states if there were legal challenges.

Trump hangs on to Texas, Iowa, Florida and Ohio

Trump kept several states, including Texas, Iowa and Ohio, where Biden had made a strong play in the final stages of the campaign. But Biden also picked off states where Trump sought to compete, including New Hampshire and Minnesota.

But Florida was one of the biggest, fiercely contested battleground on the map, with both campaigns battling over the 29 Electoral College votes that went to Trump.

The president adopted Florida as his new home state, wooed its Latino community, particularly Cuban-Americans, and held rallies there incessantly. For his part, Biden deployed his top surrogate — President Barack Obama — there twice in the campaign’s closing days and benefitted from a $100 million pledge in the state from Michael Bloomberg.

What's at stake?

Democrats entered election night confident not only in Biden's prospects but also in the party's ability to take control of the Senate. The Democrats appeared to flip seats in Arizona and Colorado. But the GOP held several seats that were considered vulnerable, including in Iowa and Maine. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control, but with a smaller majority.

The coronavirus pandemic — and Trump’s handling of it — was the inescapable focus for 2020.

For Trump, the election stood as a judgement on his four years in office, a term in which he bent Washington to his will, challenged faith in its institutions and changed how America was viewed across the globe.