The race between President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate for president Joe Biden remains too close to make any definitive calls for either to be the clear victor quite yet, but if trends in a number of key areas keep holding true, it appears that Biden may defeat the incumbent president.
The former vice president is presently leading the vote count in Arizona, Michigan and Nevada. Wisconsin was also called for Biden on Wednesday afternoon, by a margin of just over 20,000 votes between him and Trump. And in Pennsylvania, although Trump is currently in the lead, a number of observers have noted that the state could also flip as more votes are counted throughout the week.
“If the [Pennsylvania Secretary of State] page is accurate, then there are enough absentee votes left for Biden to win Pennsylvania,” the New York Times’s Nate Cohn suggested in a tweet.
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If the PA SOS page is accurate, then there are enough absentee votes left for Biden to win Pennsylvania https://t.co/t9mxFVpeCQ
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) November 4, 2020
Trump wrongly claimed early on Wednesday morning that he was the clear winner of the race, making the pronouncement even as several states had still not been called in his favor. He also baselessly said that continued vote counting in those states would be a “major fraud in our nation,” and suggested he might try to get those votes discounted in the courts.
“We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop,” Trump said at 2:21 a.m. on Wednesday, wrongly implying that continued ballot counts were new votes coming in after polling places had closed. “We don’t want them to find any ballots at four o’clock in the morning and add them to the list.”
Before the ballot tabulations had commenced on Tuesday, Trump had also demanded that a winner be announced on Election Day itself — a requirement that does not exist in any state in the country.
If vote counting continues and Trump indeed loses the election, he is entitled in a number of states to demand a recount of the ballots. However, doing so would go against the numerous statements he has made both before and after Election Day.
It would also go against his attitude toward recounts in general, which he expressed four years ago when he ran against Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, Trump won the three “blue wall” states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by very slim margins. At the end of November, recounts in each of those states were initiated by Green Party candidate Jill Stein, which the campaign of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton also joined.
Trump blasted the recounts as being unnecessary and detrimental to the country.
“Hillary Clinton conceded the election when she called me just prior to the victory speech and after the results were in. Nothing will change,” Trump said at the time.
Trump also derided the costs that would be associated with the recounts.
“So much time and money will be spent — same result! Sad,” he said at the time.
In spite of these prior comments deriding the idea of a recount in principle, it appears that Trump’s campaign will likely call for recounts this time, with campaign manager Bill Stepien saying on Wednesday that Wisconsin is, in his view, within “recount territory.”
Later in the day, Stepien confirmed that the campaign would be making an official request for a recount, citing “reports of irregularities in several Wisconsin counties which raise serious doubts about the validity of the results.” Such irregularities, however, have not been widely reported, and in fact, just the opposite was observed at the polls on Tuesday, as the Associated Press reported no signs of problems at the polls.
A recount in Wisconsin requires a 1 percent or less vote difference between candidates, and is paid for by the candidates themselves if the difference is greater than 0.25 percent. Currently, Biden leads Trump in Wisconsin by around 0.6 percent, per the New York Times’s reporting on the race.
A move to request a recount, in Wisconsin or elsewhere, risks making the president look hypocritical on the issue, both due to his insistence that the election be decided quickly and because of what he said in 2016 about recounts specifically. But Trump is not unaccustomed to behaving hypocritically when it comes to election rules, frequently changing his opinions on them depending on which rules benefit his campaign the most.
In 2012, for example, when it appeared that then-President Barack Obama would defeat Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney in the Electoral College, with popular vote totals showing Obama behind his opponent at the time, Trump tweeted out his criticism of the voting mechanism (Obama would go on to win the popular vote, too).
“The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy,” Trump said.
Yet, when he himself won the presidency in 2016 without the popular vote but with an Electoral College victory against Clinton, Trump became an ardent proponent of it. Indeed, for several months afterwards, he continued to brag about the victory, even at inopportune times, such as a Boy Scout jamboree in the summer of 2017.
“Do you remember that incredible night with the maps?” Trump said at that event.