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Biden Takes Early Lead Over Trump With Florida Neck-and-Neck

Joe Biden pulled to an early lead over Donald Trump after winning a slew of traditionally Democratic states in the eastern U.S., while the president easily won several Republican strongholds in the south and Midwest, according to the Associated Press and networks.

Florida, which Trump’s campaign considers crucial to his re-election hopes, remains undeclared. Trump held a narrow lead in the state with several traditionally Republican counties in its panhandle yet to report.

Biden won Virginia, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware and Washington, D.C., according to the AP. Trump won Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia and Oklahoma.

The early results gave Biden an 88-66 lead in the Electoral College. The first candidate to reach 270 will claim the presidency. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, was re-elected, the AP said.

Trump and Biden have little more to do than wait as officials tally the votes, including millions of pivotal mail-in ballots that could take days to count. Some Trump supporters posted on Twitter that they were headed to the White House for an election-night party.

A final outcome in the race may not be known until much later in the night, or possibly in days or weeks, if vote counts are close.

The 10-year Treasury yield reached the highest since June in early Asia trading, before retreating as early Florida results started to come in suggesting a close race in the state.

Trump and Biden both projected confidence throughout Election Day, pointing to long lines at some polling stations as signs they were poised to win. While there were reports of high voter turnout in states including Texas, Florida and Arizona, there were few signs of disturbances that many had feared.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, police arrested a man who was legally carrying an unconcealed firearm after he returned to a polling station authorities said he’d been banned from. The New York Police Department said it will deploy thousands of officers on street patrol Tuesday night to dissuade violence. “Don’t even try it,” Chief of Department Terence Monahan said.

Biden entered Election Day in a strong position, leading nationally by 7.2 percentage points as well as in most swing states, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. But the Election Day vote was expected to favor Trump in large part because Democrats encouraged their supporters to cast early ballots.

Despite Biden’s advantage, some Democrats are spooked that Trump could defy polls and win, just as he did in 2016. But Biden’s lead over Trump in national polls is greater than Hillary Clinton’s was on Election Day in 2016. RealClearPolitics had her ahead of Trump nationally by 3.2 percentage points. Biden also has held consistent leads in some key swing states he needs to win, while in 2016 some of those states were infrequently polled and assumed to be a slam dunk for Democrats.

On Tuesday, Trump predicted a “big red wave” among Republicans who cast their ballots in person rather than vote early or by mail as many Democrats had done.

“I think we’re going to have a great night,” Trump told reporters when he stopped in at his campaign headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, before returning to the White House to await polling results and work the phones.

Voting takes place amid a deadly wave of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to millions of votes being cast by mail — a shift that could delay an official tally in some battleground states for days. In Pennsylvania, for example, election officials could not begin processing early ballots until Tuesday, and it’s unclear how long it will take officials to tally them.

Early turnout information suggested that Republicans had erased Democrats’ lead in mail-in and early voting in Florida, a key state.

Michael Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the owner of Bloomberg News, provided $100 million in support of Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris in Florida, half of that from his Independence USA PAC.

“If there’s something to talk about tonight I’ll talk about it,” Biden said Tuesday afternoon at a campaign stop in Wilmington, Delaware. “If not, I’ll wait till the votes are counted the next day.”

The Biden campaign sees multiple paths to victory, while Trump has a narrower route that includes recapturing Pennsylvania while protecting the other states he won in 2016. A win for Biden in those states would all but guarantee him a victory. But the former vice president could also unseat Trump if he picks up traditional GOP bastions in the Sun Belt, like Georgia or Arizona.

While Trump made only one stop outside the White House on Tuesday, Biden returned to his childhood hometown of Scranton before heading to Philadelphia. Biden said he wanted to restore “basic decency and honor” and unite a country he said has fractured under the Trump administration.

“I can say Texas, Arizona, a few of them are looking really very strong,” Trump said in Arlington. “I think if anything, we’re going to do very well.”

— With assistance by Nick Wadhams

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