Democrat Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump to become the 46th president of the United States on Saturday, positioning himself to lead a nation gripped by historic pandemic and a confluence of economic and social turmoil.
His victory came after more than three days of uncertainty as election officials sorted through a surge of mail-in votes that delayed the processing of some ballots. Biden crossed 270 Electoral College votes with a win in Pennsylvania.
Biden, 77, staked his candidacy less on any distinctive political ideology than on galvanizing a broad coalition of voters around the notion that Trump posed an existential threat to American democracy. The strategy proved effective, resulting in pivotal victories in Michigan and Wisconsin as well as Pennsylvania, onetime Democratic bastions that had flipped to Trump in 2016.
“I am honoured and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice-President-elect Harris,” Biden said in his first statement as president-elect.
“In the face of precedented obstacles, a record number of Americans voted. Proving once again, that democracy beats deep in the heart of America,” Biden continued.
“With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal,” he added. “We are the United States of America. And there’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.”
America, I’m honored that you have chosen me to lead our great country.
The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a President for all Americans — whether you voted for me or not.
I will keep the faith that you have placed in me. pic.twitter.com/moA9qhmjn8
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 7, 2020
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Biden was on track to win the national popular vote by more than 4 million, a margin that could grow as ballots continue to be counted.
Trump seized on delays in processing the vote in some states to falsely allege voter fraud and argue that his rival was trying to seize power — an extraordinary charge by a sitting president trying to sow doubt about a bedrock democratic process.
As the vote count played out, Biden tried to ease tensions and project an image of presidential leadership, hitting notes of unity that were seemingly aimed at cooling the temperature of a heated, divided nation.
“We have to remember the purpose of our politics isn’t total unrelenting, unending warfare,” Biden said Friday night in Delaware. “No, the purpose of our politics, the work of our nation, isn’t to fan the flames of conflict, but to solve problems, to guarantee justice, to give everybody a fair shot.”
Kamala Harris also made history as the first Black woman to become vice president, an achievement that comes as the U.S. faces a reckoning on racial justice. The California senator, who is also the first person of South Asian descent elected to the vice presidency, will become the highest-ranking woman ever to serve in government, four years after Trump defeated Hillary Clinton.
We did it, @JoeBiden. pic.twitter.com/oCgeylsjB4
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) November 7, 2020
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Trump is the first incumbent president to lose reelection since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992. It was unclear whether Trump would publicly concede.
Americans showed deep interest in the presidential race. A record 103 million voted early this year, opting to avoid waiting in long lines at polling locations during a pandemic. With counting continuing in some states, Biden had already received more than 74 million votes, more than any presidential candidate before him.
More than 236,000 Americans have died during the coronavirus pandemic, nearly 10 million have been infected and millions of jobs have been lost. The final days of the campaign played out against the backdrop of a surge in confirmed cases in nearly every state, including battlegrounds such as Wisconsin that swung to Biden.
The pandemic will soon be Biden’s to tame, and he campaigned pledging a big government response, akin to what Franklin D. Roosevelt oversaw with the New Deal during the Depression of the 1930s. But Senate Republicans fought back several Democratic challengers and looked to retain a fragile majority that could serve as a check on such Biden ambition.
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The 2020 campaign was a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic, which has shuttered schools across the nation, disrupted businesses and raised questions about the feasibility of family gatherings heading into the holidays.
The fast spread of the coronavirus transformed political rallies from standard campaign fare to gatherings that were potential public health emergencies. It also contributed to an unprecedented shift to voting early and by mail and prompted Biden to dramatically scale back his travel and events to comply with restrictions. Trump defied calls for caution and ultimately contracted the disease himself. He was saddled throughout the year by negative assessments from the public of his handling of the pandemic.
Biden also drew a sharp contrast to Trump through a summer of unrest over the police killings of Black Americans including Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and George Floyd in Minneapolis. Their deaths sparked the largest racial protest movement since the civil rights era. Biden responded by acknowledging the racism that pervades American life, while Trump emphasized his support of police and pivoted to a “law and order” message that resonated with his largely white base.
The president’s most ardent backers never wavered and may remain loyal to him and his supporters in Congress after Trump has departed the White House.
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The third president to be impeached, though acquitted in the Senate, Trump will leave office having left an indelible imprint in a tenure defined by the shattering of White House norms and a day-to-day whirlwind of turnover, partisan divide and the ever-present threat via his Twitter account.
Biden, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and raised in Delaware, was one of the youngest candidates ever elected to the Senate. Before he took office, his wife and daughter were killed, and his two sons badly injured in a 1972 car crash.
Commuting every night on a train from Washington back to Wilmington, Biden fashioned an everyman political persona to go along with powerful Senate positions, including chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations Committees. Some aspects of his record drew critical scrutiny from fellow Democrats, including his support for the 1994 crime bill, his vote for the 2003 Iraq War and his management of the Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court hearings.
Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign was done in by plagiarism allegations, and his next bid in 2008 ended quietly. But later that year, he was tapped to be Barack Obama’s running mate and he became an influential vice president, steering the administration’s outreach to both Capitol Hill and Iraq.
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While his reputation was burnished by his time in office and his deep friendship with Obama, Biden stood aside for Clinton and opted not to run in 2016 after his adult son Beau died of brain cancer the year before.
Trump’s tenure pushed Biden to make one more run as he declared that “the very soul of the nation is at stake.”
Hillary Clinton, calling his election “a repudiation of Trump, and a new page for America.”
The voters have spoken, and they have chosen @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris to be our next president and vice president.
It's a history-making ticket, a repudiation of Trump, and a new page for America.
Thank you to everyone who helped make this happen. Onward, together. pic.twitter.com/YlDY9TJONs
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) November 7, 2020
Numerous celebrities have been taking to Twitter to share their reactions — including Jennifer Lawrence, who shared a video of herself dancing, shouting and celebrating in the streets of Boston, all while wearing jammies.
Had no choice but to throw a party for 1 #comeonbostonletsparty pic.twitter.com/qvSEVip0Mh
— Jennifer Lawrence – Represent.Us (@JLawrence_RepUs) November 7, 2020
Crying and holding my daughter, “look baby, she looks like us.” pic.twitter.com/Gy4MAPoNjy
— Mindy Kaling (@mindykaling) November 7, 2020
. @JoeBiden @KamalaHarris and the American people, you just gave the world one of the greatest acts of kindness and bravery humanity has ever seen. ❤️ 🙌🙌 nothing but love for our new Commander in Chief and the 1ST female VP elected to the White House. Also, way to go PA 😭❤️ pic.twitter.com/uXiMTWs6Hk
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) November 7, 2020
In tears. What a moment! So grateful to all voters, poll workers, volunteers, staffers, everyone who made this a reality! No doubt there is a LOT of work to do but let’s celebrate this moment, friends. It’s historic! Congrats President-Elect @JoeBiden and Madame VP @KamalaHarris! pic.twitter.com/RSMN98Tg57
— Mandy Moore (@TheMandyMoore) November 7, 2020
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) November 7, 2020
IT’S OVER! BIDEN HAS WON!!
— bettemidler (@BetteMidler) November 7, 2020
— Kevin Zegers (@KevinZegers) November 7, 2020
A great day for America. Thank you, Biden voters, for saving our country. We are breathing again. We can save the environment, find the parents for those children, respect our military and maybe get the respect of our allies back.
— Joy Behar (@JoyVBehar) November 7, 2020
Trump and Co .thought they had a mandate with their 3mil popular vote LOSS and measly squeak by’s in swing states. We crushed both. Ultra Mandate! 4 years for our Base. https://t.co/BwwmjVXbvi
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) November 7, 2020
YASSSSSSS!! CONGRATS PRESIDENT BIDEN!! pic.twitter.com/xzxUdXhOUt
— Leslie Jones 🦋 (@Lesdoggg) November 7, 2020
Good for him. And us
“@atrupar: Van Jones was emotional talking about Joe Biden becoming the next President of the United States pic.twitter.com/hvdzfzwbNk”
— John Cusack (@johncusack) November 7, 2020
Congratulations, President Biden and Vice President Harris. We’re counting on you.
— Richard Marx (@richardmarx) November 7, 2020
Ding Dong the Witch is dead.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) November 6, 2020
Soon to be breaking: Trump insiders reporting that Trump looking to resign so that Mike Pence can pardon him. Placing bets. pic.twitter.com/qV7iQK9PXB
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) November 7, 2020
Congratulations, @JoeBiden and @KamalaHarris. Our two countries are close friends, partners, and allies. We share a relationship that’s unique on the world stage. I’m really looking forward to working together and building on that with you both.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) November 7, 2020
Petition to get Britney Spears to officially say "It's Biden Bitch!" sign below and tag Britney.
— Black Lives Still Matter (@thatonequeen) November 7, 2020
Thanks to all who took the PJVotes pledge and voted this historic election year. Deep gratitude to our many partners including these Pennsylvania changemakers @PeopleFor @MakeTheRoadPA and @LCVoters who worked tirelessly to help their neighbors vote.
— Pearl Jam (@PearlJam) November 7, 2020
“Madam Vice President” is no longer a fictional character. @KamalaHarris pic.twitter.com/rg1fErtHGX
— Julia Louis-Dreyfus (@OfficialJLD) November 7, 2020
Hoping they reshoot Trump’s scene in Home Alone 2 and Biden replaces him again. pic.twitter.com/MdIeMS5yRl
— John Cohen (@JohnCohen1) November 7, 2020
I’ve had this on my vision board for a long time and would like to see this come to fruition and convince me for once and for all, that God is real. https://t.co/8wFb3qdmlb
— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) November 7, 2020
My god it feels like I just took off a weighted blanket, unhooked my bra and taken out my extensions all at once
— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) November 7, 2020
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) November 7, 2020
What a tremendous moment in our nation’s history ! 🇺🇸 Congrats to our new President @JoeBiden and the First Female Vice President in our history @KamalaHarris 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼
— Reese Witherspoon (@ReeseW) November 7, 2020
No you didn’t. You lost. https://t.co/M1RQAaF6L8
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) November 7, 2020
Celebrations on Black Lives Matter Plaza Near White House. Americans are really happy. pic.twitter.com/GsEue2EjhC
— Jill Biden For FLOTUS (@Jillbiden46) November 7, 2020
Congratulations to President-elect @JoeBiden and Vice-President-elect @KamalaHarris of the United States from HRH Princess Mia Thermopolis. Your message of unity is one shared by the people and palace of Genovia. We look forward to working with you both! 👑🌴
— Meg Cabot (@megcabot) November 7, 2020
A MINIMUM OF FOUR YEARS OF @MayaRudolph EVERYONE. pic.twitter.com/FI6vBRX9VC
— Jameela Jamil 🌈 (@jameelajamil) November 7, 2020
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.