Joe Biden won the presidency on Saturday, after Pennsylvania put him over the top. The former vice president collected more than 74 million votes nationwide, the most of any candidate in history.
President Donald Trump refused to acknowledge defeat, complicating the transition and Biden's task of calming tensions in a nation in the throes of a pandemic, economic uncertainty and extreme partisan passions.
He is the oldest person ever elected commander in chief. He turns 78 on Nov. 20. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, 56, will be the first woman and the first woman of color to serve as vice president, the post Biden held for eight years under Barack Obama.
"The people of this nation have spoken, delivered is a clear victory, a convincing victory, a victory for the people," he said, citing his wide victory margin to implicitly refute any lingering doubts about the outcome. "Once again, America's bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice. ... I pledged to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify."
A throng of cheering, flag-waving supporters gathered at the Chase Center in Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, on a balmy Saturday night for his acceptance speech.
To Trump's supporters, Biden said he has lost elections and understands their disappointment, but he implored: "Let's give each other a chance. ... Let this grim era of demonization in America begin to end, here and now."
Biden jogged on stage, energetically greeting Harris with a double fist bump. Both wore masks except when delivering their remarks.
"You delivered a clear message. You chose decency, science, truth. You chose Joe Biden," Harris said. "Joe is a healer, a uniter, a tested and steady hand" and will be "a president for all Americans."
She thanked election workers, including those still plowing through stacks of absentee ballots. "You have protected the integrity of our democracy," she said.
She lauded Biden for having the "audacity" to pick a woman as vice president, and paid homage to generations of women who fought to expand political rights, especially Black women who are "often overlooked but so often prove they are the backbone of our democracy. ... I stand on their shoulders."
Although Biden vowed to ease the rancor of the last four years, that may hinge on how his adversaries behave and how Trump handles the transition. Trump remains president for another 74 days, until the inauguration on Jan. 20.
Biden promised during the campaign to reverse Trump's decisions to pull the United States out of the World Health Organization and the Paris Climate Accord. Those will be among a flurry of actions he's expected to take in his first days and weeks.
He, too, thanked election workers who risked their health to make the gears of democracy work during a COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed more than 237,000 American lives.
Defeat makes Trump the first one-term president since George H.W. Bush, who lost in 1992 to Bill Clinton.
He was golfing at his club in Sterling, Virginia, near the nation's capital, on Saturday morning when The Associated Press called the Keystone State and the election for Biden.
The Democrat had been on the cusp of victory for two days pending results from four battlegrounds still counting mail ballots.
"This election is far from over," Trump insisted in a statement a half-hour later, promoting his unfounded allegation of cheating and fraud. "We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: they don't want the truth to be exposed."
There's no political or legal obligation for a defeated candidate to concede. But that has always been the norm in a democracy, conferring legitimacy to the winner and emotional release to the loser's supporters.
A large and jubilant crowd gathered outside the White House to celebrate Trump's defeat, at times singing "YMCA" — a standard at his rallies. They packed the site of the Black Lives Matter clash in June, when National Park Police used tear gas to clear the area before Trump walked to a church and posed holding a Bible.
Spontaneous celebrations broke out across the country from Philadelphia to San Antonio to Los Angeles.
Trump made no public appearances all day. Late afternoon he issued an all-caps tweet insisting that "I WON THE ELECTION" and claiming falsely that millions of voters were sent mail-in ballots they hadn't requested.
Victory for Trump would require an implausible reversal of fortune, through recounts in Wisconsin and Georgia and court orders to invalidate tens of thousands of ballots in Pennsylvania and other states.
Democrats shrugged it aside as irrelevant nonsense.
" Donald Trump does not get to decide the winner of elections. The people decide ... and voters have made their choice very clear," said Biden spokeswoman Symone Sanders.
By nightfall, Biden's electoral count stood at 290, well past the 270 mark needed to clinch, with victories declared Saturday morning in Pennsylvania, then Nevada. He led in Georgiaand was likely to end up with the same 306 that Trump collected four years ago, assuming he hung on in Arizona, which AP had declared for Biden early Wednesday, though Republicans insisted it was too close to call.
Trump regularly boasted that he'd won by a landslide, despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by 3 million. Biden topped him by at least 4 million, and used that margin to claim a mandate on climate change, economic policy, immigration, the pandemic and other contentious issues.
"America has called upon us to marshal the forces of decency and ... fairness and ... science" to defeat the coronavirus, racial injustice, inequality and deprivation, Biden said.
MIXED RESPONSE FROM GOP
Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and some other GOP luminaries offered congratulatory message and vows to work with the new president. Retiring Rep. Will Hurd, a Texas Republican, was among those who referred to him as president-elect.
Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn did not.
Both warned that the upcoming era will hinge on unusual runoff elections for both of Georgia's U.S. Senate seats in January, and that if Democrats end up with control of the Senate, they and Biden will push a radical agenda unchecked.
Biden will be only the nation's second Roman Catholic president. The first was John F. Kennedy.
Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state, was the first woman nominated by a major party. Harris did what she couldn't: shattered the glass ceiling to become the first woman elected nationwide.
Two others had tried before Clinton, both as nominees for vice president: Geraldine Ferraro, a New York congresswoman who ran with Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984, and Sarah Palin, who was Alaska governor in 2008 when Sen. John McCain lost to Obama.
Biden vowed a return to a more traditional style of presidential leadership: no early morning tweetstorms or belittling of Cabinet secretaries or demanding personal loyalty from FBIdirectors.
He reportedly planned to name a coronavirus task force on Monday, and will soon turn to filling out his Cabinet.
Obama, who stumped for his friend and vice president in Florida, Georgia and other contested states, said Saturday that "when he walks into the White House in January, he'll face a series of extraordinary challenges no incoming President ever has — a raging pandemic, an unequal economy and justice system, a democracy at risk, and a climate in peril."
Biden is up to the challenge, Obama said, but the election showed "that the country remains deeply and bitterly divided. It will be up to not just Joe and Kamala, but each of us, to do our part — to reach out beyond our comfort zone, to listen to others, to lower the temperature and find some common ground."
Texas GOP chairman Allen West implicitly conceded defeat, but caustically asserted that the "Democrat Socialists have found and counted enough votes to declare Joe Biden the 46th President."
"Americans don't like cheaters," he said, recalling sports scandals involving Barry Bonds, a baseball slugger who used steroids, and Tom Brady, a quarterback accused of using illegally deflated footballs.
This victory will come with an asterisk, too, West said, warning of backlash against the "collectivism and tyranny" he expects Biden to push. In 2022, he said, " Texas will lead America in delivering a resounding midterm defeat to the Marxist, Socialist, Antifa-loving left."
RECORD VOTE AND A MANDATE
Late Friday, Biden boasted about his record-breaking vote haul as he prepared the country to accept his victory.
"Let's say adios to Trump's corruption and incompetence. Adios to his bigotry and racism. And adios to his cruelty towards immigrants and DACA recipients," Julian Castro, the former San Antonio mayor who served with Biden in the Obama cabinet as housing secretary, and competed against him in the Democratic primaries, in an email celebrating the victory.
He relaunched sales of T-shirts with his campaign catch-phrase, Adios Trump, with proceeds to help young immigrants who have avoided deportation through the Obama-era DACA program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Texas Democrats were "ecstatic," according to state party chairman Gilberto Hinojosa and vice chair Carla Brailey, who said in a joint statement that " We are on the path to restoring the soul of the nation....Our national nightmare of Donald Trump is finally over."
Jordan Avery Garrett, 26, is a second-year school student at the University of North Texas-Dallas College of Law and is the president of the Black Law Students Association. She said Kamala Harris' rise to vice president has broken the glass ceilings not only for Black women, but for all women.
Anti- Trump Republicans likewise basked in the victory.
One founder of the Lincoln Project, John Weaver, a strategist who led Ohio Gov. John Kasich's failed presidential campaign and was part of McCain's inner circle in 2008, issued thanks to the "Army of the Decent" who voted to oust Trump.
TRUMP WON'T CONCEDE
Law enforcement, National Guard and businesses had braced for election-related unrest.
None erupted Saturday.
Passions were high, and Trump stoked them, as when he claimed from the White House briefing room Thursday night that "they're trying to steal an election. They're trying to rig an election."
No evidence of that has surfaced, certainly not on a massive scale that could have tipped the outcome.
Hours earlier, his son Donald Trump Jr. called for "total war over this election to expose all of the fraud, cheating, dead/no longer in state voters, that has been going on for far too long."
Moments before the race was called, the Trump campaign was still blasting out fundraising appeals alleging that "The Left will try to STEAL this Election."
Moments later, Trump vowed a fierce legal fight on multiple fronts until "the rightful winner is seated." He insinuated that Biden's victory hinged on ballots that were "fraudulent, manufactured, or cast by ineligible or deceased voters."
Throughout the campaign the president seeded doubts about the integrity of the election, insisting that widespread use of mail ballots during the pandemic invited cheating.
As a result, Trump supporters were less likely to vote by mail, while Democrats took advantage of the flexibility most state offered to vote absentee during a pandemic.
Those ballots weren't counted in Pennsylvania and other states until after polls closed, so the partial tallies released on Election Night were akin to the scoreboard at halftime.
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