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Biden on cusp of White House victory with key results due soon
[WASHINGTON] The nail-biting US election was on the cusp of finally producing a winner Thursday, with Democrat Joe Biden solidifying his lead over President Donald Trump and the decisive state of Pennsylvania set to release results.
Two days after the most tense election in decades, the meticulous vote counting process - complicated this year by a flood of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus crisis - reached the end game.
Mr Biden, 77, was just one or at most two battleground states away from securing the majority to take the White House.
Mr Trump, 74, needed an increasingly unlikely combination of wins in multiple states to stay in power.
The Republican, who shocked the world when he won the presidency in 2016 in his first ever run for public office, spent another day lashing out at the election, claiming fraud and demanding a halt to vote counting.
"IF YOU COUNT THE LEGAL VOTES, I EASILY WIN THE ELECTION!" he claimed in a statement sent out by his campaign, accompanied by no evidence. "IF YOU COUNT THE ILLEGAL AND LATE VOTES, THEY CAN STEAL THE ELECTION FROM US!"
Mr Biden, who has promised to heal a country bruised by Mr Trump's extraordinarily polarising four years in power, maintained his characteristic message of calm.
"Be patient, folks. Votes are being counted, and we feel good about where we are," he tweeted.
ALL ABOUT PENNSYLVANIA?
In Georgia, a generally Republican state, Mr Trump had a razor thin and steadily slipping lead of less than 13,000. With 98 per cent of ballots already counted, the president and Mr Biden were headed to a photo finish.
In Arizona and Nevada, Mr Biden held on to slim leads. If Mr Biden wins both those states he would also win the presidency.
But the biggest piece of the puzzle was Pennsylvania, where Mr Trump's early lead was again steadily draining away, as election officials homed in on processing mail-in ballots, which are more typically cast by Biden supporters.
The Democratic hopeful currently has 253 of the 538 electoral votes divvied up between the country's 50 states - and 264 with the inclusion of Arizona, which Fox News and the Associated Press have called in his favour.
If Mr Biden took Pennsylvania, he would grab 20 more electoral votes - which would instantly take him over the top of the 270 needed for overall victory.
The official overseeing elections in Pennsylvania, Kathy Boockvar, told CNN that a winner there "definitely could" be determined by the close of business on Thursday.
About 550,000 ballots were still being counted and "it's looking like we'll have the overwhelming majority counted by today," she said.
Ms Boockvar was to give a press conference at 5.15pm (2215 GMT).
TRUMP LASHES OUT
Mr Trump's campaign continued to insist that the president has a way to win, citing pockets of Republican support yet to be counted in such close races.
But Mr Trump's overwhelming focus was on claiming, without evidence, that he was a victim of mass fraud.
Mr Trump prematurely declared victory on Wednesday and threatened to seek Supreme Court intervention to stop vote-counting but it has continued nonetheless.
Since then, his team fanned out across the battleground states challenging the results in court and staging a series of press conferences where supporters lodged allegations of irregularities.
"STOP THE COUNT!"
Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday, referring to his claim that the mail-in ballots in particular are fraudulent.
But while Mr Trump was demanding that counting be halted in Georgia and Pennsylvania - where he is leading - his supporters and campaign insisted that it continue in Arizona and Nevada, where he is trailing.
The campaign has announced lawsuits in Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania and Michigan - where it has already been dismissed - as well as demanding a recount in Wisconsin, where Mr Biden won by just 20,000 votes.
Bob Bauer, a lawyer for the Biden campaign, dismissed the slew of lawsuits as "meritless." "All of this is intended to create a large cloud," Mr Bauer said. "But it's not a very thick cloud. We see through it. So do the courts and so do election officials."