Biden inches nearer to victory

Democrat Joe Biden crept nearer to victory over Donald Trump on Thursday in an exceedingly close US election that hinged on razor-thin margins in a handful of states, while the Republican president escalated his legal efforts to influence vote counting and made fresh unsubstantiated claims of voting fraud.

Biden, the former US vice president, was chipping away at Trump's leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia while retaining slim margins in Nevada and Arizona.

Ballot tabulation dragged on in those battleground states two days after polls closed, while protesters from both sides staged demonstrations in major cities over the vote counting.

After an acrimonious campaign waged during the coronavirus pandemic, the election appeared to be moving toward a nail-biting conclusion in the coming hours and perhaps days.

At stake is whether to give Trump and his "America First" policies four more years in office after a tumultuous first term or turn to Biden, a figure on the national stage for a half century who promises to deliver steadiness at home and repair overseas alliances.

There is still a narrow path for Trump to win if he holds on in Georgia, where he leads by 12,800 votes, and Pennsylvania, where he is ahead by 108,600 votes, and overtakes Biden in Arizona, where he trails by 68,100 votes, or Nevada, where he is 11,400 votes behind.

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NORTH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 05: President Donald Trump supporters protest outside the Clark County Election Department, where ballots from the election are being counted, on November 5, 2020 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a slim lead over Donald Trump in the battleground state, which is still too close to call after Tuesday's election. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 5: Supporters of President Trump gather outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center to protest mail in ballots being counted to determine the winner of the 2020 Presidential election in the state on November 5, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
A woman yells her anger in a microphone as Trump supporters gather in front of the Maricopa County Election Department where ballots are counted after the US presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5, 2020. - President Donald Trump erupted on November 5 in a tirade of unsubstantiated claims that he has been cheated out of winning the US election as vote counting across battleground states showed Democrat Joe Biden steadily closing in on victory. (Photo by OLIVIER TOURON / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER TOURON/AFP via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 5: Anti-Trump voters hold a dance party and demand that every ballot be counted outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center where mail in ballots are being counted to determine the winner of the 2020 Presidential election in the state on November 5, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)
Jake A, 33, aka Yellowstone Wolf, from Phoenix, holds a QAnon sign, as he presents himself as a shamanist and consultant for the Trump supporters gathered in front of the Maricopa County Election Department where ballots are counted after the US presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5, 2020. - President Donald Trump erupted on November 5 in a tirade of unsubstantiated claims that he has been cheated out of winning the US election as vote counting across battleground states showed Democrat Joe Biden steadily closing in on victory. (Photo by OLIVIER TOURON / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER TOURON/AFP via Getty Images)
NORTH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - NOVEMBER 05: President Donald Trump supporters protest outside the Clark County Election Department, where ballots from the election are being counted, on November 5, 2020 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden holds a slim lead over Donald Trump in the battleground state, which is still too close to call after Tuesday's election. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - NOVEMBER 05: Trump supporters mix with counter protesters outside the TCF election center November 05, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. Two days after the U.S. presidential election, states continue counting votes as protesters stage dueling demonstrations outside election centers. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump looks on after speaking during election night in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, early on November 4, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Protesters burn the American flag outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, Oregon, on November 4, 2020. - President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden are battling it out for the White House, with polls closed across the United States Tuesday -- and a long night of waiting for results in key battlegrounds on the cards. (Photo by Ankur Dholakia / AFP) (Photo by ANKUR DHOLAKIA/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 04: Vice President Mike Pence speaks as U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump watch on election night in the East Room of the White House in the early morning hours of November 04, 2020 in Washington, DC. Trump spoke shortly after 2am with the presidential race against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden still too close to call. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - NOVEMBER 04: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden speaks at a drive-in election night event as Dr. Jill Biden looks on at the Chase Center in the early morning hours of November 04, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Biden spoke shortly after midnight with the presidential race against Donald Trump still too close to call. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
TRAVERSE CITY, MI - NOVEMBER 02: Guests wait for President Donald Trump to speaks at a rally on November 2, 2020 in Traverse City, Michigan. President Trump and former Vice President Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden are making multiple stops in swing states ahead of the general election on November 3rd. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, UNITED STATES - 2020/11/03: Young students female voters with "Every Vote Counts" hoodies. On the University of Pittsburgh campus many students organizing get out the vote campaigns through signs, stickers, and text messaging their friends during the United States Election Day. (Photo by Aaron Jackendoff/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 04: A waitress wears a protective mask as she watches a speech by U.S. President Donald Trump on a television during an election watching event at a local bar on November 4, 2020 in Beijing, China. After a record-breaking early voting turnout, Americans head to the polls on the last day to cast their vote for incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - November 03: The fence at Lafayette park draws souvenir hunters on Election day at BLM plaza, in Washington, DC on November 03. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 03: President Donald Trump arrives at the White House on Marine One on November 3, 2020 in Washington, DC. The President is returning from his final campaign rallies before polls open for the Presidential Election. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)
CHARLESTON, SC - NOVEMBER 03: A woman casts her vote at the Hazel Parker Playground on Election Day on November 3, 2020 in Charleston, United States. After a record-breaking early voting turnout, Americans head to the polls on the last day to cast their vote for incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - NOVEMBER 3, 2020: A voter wears a face mask and a face shield outside a polling station on Election Day during the 2020 general elections. The USA elect a president and vice president, 35 Senators, all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 13 governors of 11 states and two US territories, as well as state and local government officials. Incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden are running for president. Yegor Aleyev/TASS (Photo by Yegor Aleyev\TASS via Getty Images)
Kosovo artist Alkent Pozhegu works on the final touches of an image made with grain and seed, depicting the portrait of Joe Biden, the US Democratic presidential nominee, in the town of Gjakova on November 3, 2020. - The United States started voting on November 3, 2020, in an election amounting to a referendum on Donald Trump's uniquely brash and bruising presidency, which Democratic opponent and frontrunner Joe Biden urged Americans to end to restore "our democracy." (Photo by Armend NIMANI / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo by ARMEND NIMANI/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., USA - NOVEMBER 3, 2020: A voter wears a face mask outside a polling station on Election Day as she waits in line to vote in the 2020 general elections.The USA elect a president and vice president, 35 Senators, all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 13 governors of 11 states and two US territories, as well as state and local government officials. Incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden are running for president. Yegor Aleyev/TASS (Photo by Yegor Aleyev\TASS via Getty Images)
Conservative activists prepare flags as they gather to mark the US election day outside the US embassy in Seoul on November 3, 2020. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)
OAKMONT, PA - NOVEMBER 03: Cookies representing the presidential candidates for sale at the Oakmont Bakery on November 3, 2020 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania. After a record-breaking early voting turnout, Americans head to the polls on the last day to cast their vote for incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden departs Wilmington, Delaware on November 3, 2020. - The United States started voting Tuesday in an election amounting to a referendum on Donald Trump's uniquely brash and bruising presidency, which Democratic opponent and frontrunner Joe Biden urged Americans to end to restore "our democracy." (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY, USA - NOVEMBER 3, 2020: A polling station in Manhattan on Election Day. The USA elect a president and vice president, 35 Senators, all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 13 governors of 11 states and two US territories, as well as state and local government officials. Incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden are running for president. Maria Khrenova/TASS (Photo by Maria Khrenova\TASS via Getty Images)
03 November 2020, Berlin: The flag of the United States of America is waving in the wind at the US embassy in front of the moon. The US votes on the President, the Senate and the House of Representatives. More than 200 million Americans are called upon to elect a new President and the members of the House of Representatives. In addition, one third of the 100 Senate seats are up for election. Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa (Photo by Kay Nietfeld/picture alliance via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump stands on stage with Vice President Mike Pence at the conclusion of his final Make America Great Again rally of the 2020 US Presidential campaign at Gerald R. Ford International Airport November 3, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (back) leaves after speaking at his final Make America Great Again rally of the 2020 US Presidential campaign at Gerald R. Ford International Airport November 3, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Tom Tillotson drops his son's Tanner's ballot into the ballot box at the Hale House at the historic Balsams Resort during midnight voting as part of the first ballots cast in the United States Presidential Election in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire on November 3, 2020. - Voters in Dixville Notch, a village of 12 residents in the US state of New Hampshire, kicked off Election Day at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday by voting unanimously for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
The votes are tallied, five in favor of Former vice-president and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden against zero for US President Donald Trump during the historic midnight vote at the Hale House at the historic Balsams Resort during midnight voting as part of the first ballots cast in the United States Presidential Election in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire on November 3, 2020. - Voters in Dixville Notch, a village of 12 residents in the US state of New Hampshire, kicked off Election Day at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday by voting unanimously for Democratic nominee Joe Biden. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
KENOSHA, WISCONSIN, USA - NOVEMBER 2: Supporters gather for U.S. President Donald J. Trumpâs a campaign rally held at the Kenosha Regional Airport in Kenosha, Wisconsin, United States on November 02, 2020. (Photo by Joshua T. Kozlowski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Vice President Mike Pence before US President Donald Trump's final Make America Great Again rally of the 2020 US Presidential campaign at Gerald R. Ford International Airport on November 2, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
A supporter of US President Donald Trump wears an anti Gretchen Whitmer mask as people arrive to attend his final Make America Great Again rally of the 2020 US Presidential campaign at Gerald R. Ford International Airport on November 2, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
Supporters of US President Donald Trump arrive for his final Make America Great Again rally of the 2020 US Presidential campaign at Gerald R. Ford International Airport on November 2, 2020, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY / AFP) (Photo by JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 2, 2020: Election commission members at Super Vote Center at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) during early voting in the 2020 US presidential election. The country elects a president and vice president, 35 Senators, all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 13 governors of 11 states and two US territories, as well as state and local government officials. Incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden are running for president. Vladimir Kostyrev/TASS (Photo by Vladimir Kostyrev\TASS via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 2, 2020: A woman in a face mask at Super Vote Center at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) during early voting in the 2020 US presidential election. The country elects a president and vice president, 35 Senators, all 435 members of the House of Representatives, 13 governors of 11 states and two US territories, as well as state and local government officials. Incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden are running for president. Vladimir Kostyrev/TASS (Photo by Vladimir Kostyrev\TASS via Getty Images)
AVOCA, PENNSYLVANIA - NOVEMBER 02: President Donald Trump speaks at a rally on November 02, 2020 in Avoca, Pennsylvania. Donald Trump is crossing the crucial state of Pennsylvania in the last days of campaigning before Americans go to the polls on November 3rd to vote. Trump is currently trailing his opponent Joe Biden in most national polls. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 02: Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and husband, Douglas Emhoff, embrace on stage after Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden spoke in Pittsburgh at a simultaneous drive-in election eve rally on November 2, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, remains ahead of President Donald Trump by about six points, according to a recent polling average. With the election tomorrow, Trump held four rallies across Pennsylvania over the weekend, as he vies to recapture the Keystone State's vital 20 electoral votes. In 2016, he carried Pennsylvania by only 44,292 votes out of more than 6 million cast, less than a 1 percent differential, becoming the first Republican to claim victory here since 1988. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 02: Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) takes the stage to speak at a drive-in election eve rally on November 2, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, remains ahead of President Donald Trump by about six points, according to a recent polling average. With the election tomorrow, Trump held four rallies across Pennsylvania over the weekend, as he vies to recapture the Keystone State's vital 20 electoral votes. In 2016, he carried Pennsylvania by only 44,292 votes out of more than 6 million cast, less than a 1 percent differential, becoming the first Republican to claim victory here since 1988. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 2, 2020: A woman in a face mask casts a ballot at Super Vote Center at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) during early voting in the 2020 US presidential election. Yegor Aleyev/TASS (Photo by Yegor Aleyev\TASS via Getty Images)
BETHLEHEM, PA - NOVEMBER 02: Greg Snyder wears a campaign themed face mask while listening to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at a drive-in rally on the eve of the general election on November 2, 2020 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, remains ahead of President Donald Trump by about six points, according to a recent polling average. With the election tomorrow, Trump held four rallies across Pennsylvania over the weekend, as he vies to recapture the Keystone State's vital 20 electoral votes. In 2016, he carried Pennsylvania by only 44,292 votes out of more than 6 million cast, less than a 1 percent differential, becoming the first Republican to claim victory here since 1988. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 02: Model Chrissy Teigen, wife of singer John Legend, waits before taking the stage before Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks at a drive-in election eve rally on November 2, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania, remains ahead of President Donald Trump by about six points, according to a recent polling average. With the election tomorrow, Trump held four rallies across Pennsylvania over the weekend, as he vies to recapture the Keystone State's vital 20 electoral votes. In 2016, he carried Pennsylvania by only 44,292 votes out of more than 6 million cast, less than a 1 percent differential, becoming the first Republican to claim victory here since 1988. (Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 04: Workers with the Detroit Department of Elections inspect absentee ballot at the Central Counting Board in the TCF Center on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan. After a record-breaking early voting turnout, Americans head to the polls on the last day to cast their vote for incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. (Photo by Elaine Cromie/Getty Images)
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Trump, who attacked the integrity of the US voting system during the campaign, again on Thursday alleged voting fraud without providing evidence and accused Democrats of aiming to "steal" the election.

His campaign has filed several lawsuits and called for a recount in Wisconsin. His latest move was a lawsuit announced on Thursday alleging voting fraud in Nevada.

"Be patient, folks," Biden, who a day earlier predicted he would win, wrote on Twitter. "Votes are being counted, and we feel good about where we are."

One of the most unusual presidential races in modern US history was conducted amid the pandemic, which has killed more than 234,000 Americans and left millions more out of work. Concern about the virus caused a surge in voting by mail, with the laborious counting contributing to the delayed results.

Some legal experts called Trump's legal challenges a long shot unlikely to affect the election outcome.

"What we are seeing on these legal suits are that they are meritless, and nothing more than an attempt to distract and delay what is now inevitable: Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States," Biden's campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon told reporters.

Trump's campaign predicted victory, with campaign manager Bill Stepien saying, "Donald Trump is alive and well" in the election.

Some of the outstanding votes in Georgia and Pennsylvania were clustered in places expected to lean Democratic - like the Atlanta and Philadelphia areas.

The president, who falsely declared victory a few hours after polls closed on Tuesday, lashed out on Thursday on Twitter and in a campaign statement in which he said, "If you count the legal votes, I easily win the election! If you count the illegal and late votes, they can steal the election from us!"

Trump wrote on Twitter, "STOP THE COUNT!" and "STOP THE FRAUD!" although he has no authority over ballot counting. He added that "all of the recent Biden claimed States will be legally challenged by us.

Despite Trump's allegations, US election experts have said fraud in balloting is very rare.

To capture the White House, a candidate must amass at least 270 votes in the state-by-state Electoral College. Such electoral votes are based largely on a state's population.

Edison Research gave Biden a 243 to 214 lead in Electoral College votes on Thursday after calling a district in Maine for Trump. All major news outlets said Biden had won Wisconsin, which would give him another 10 votes.

Biden also led Trump by more than 3.7 million in the national popular vote, though that plays no role in deciding the winner. Trump lost the popular vote by about 3 million to Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 but won crucial battleground states to take the White House in an upset victory.

He is trying to avoid becoming the first incumbent US president to lose a re-election bid since fellow Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.

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