Joe Biden stands on the brink of winning the presidency, needing to clinch just one more battleground state to defeat President Donald Trump.
Mr Biden already has won the fiercely contested prizes of Michigan and Wisconsin, part of the “blue wall” that slipped away from Democrats four years ago.
Two days after election day, neither candidate has amassed the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.
But Mr Biden’s victories in the Great Lakes states have him at 264, meaning he is one battleground state away from becoming president-elect.
Mr Trump, with 214 electoral votes, faced a much higher hurdle.
To reach 270, he needed to claim all four remaining battlegrounds: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada.
STOP THE COUNT!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 5, 2020
With millions of votes yet to be tabulated, Mr Biden already had received more than 71 million votes, the most in history.
On Thursday evening, Mr Biden said he has “no doubt” he will win the presidency as he urged for calm and patience and re-iterated that “each ballot must be counted”.
He said that “democracy is sometimes messy, it sometimes requires a little patience”.
“Each ballot must be counted and that’s what we’re going to see going through now and that’s how it should be,” he said from a stage in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware.
“We continue to feel very good about where things stand, we have no doubt that when the count is finished Senator Harris and I will be declared the winners.
“So I ask everyone to stay calm, all the people to stay calm, the process is working, the count is being completed and we’ll know very soon.”
It was a stark contrast to the approach of Mr Trump, who early on Wednesday morning falsely claimed that he had won the election.
Mr Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity to try to improve the Republican president’s chances and cast doubt on the election results, requesting a recount in Wisconsin and filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.
Statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes; Mr Biden led by more than 20,000 ballots out of nearly 3.3 million counted.
I’m confident that we will emerge victorious.
But this will not be my victory alone.
It will be a victory for the American people. pic.twitter.com/ZqJBVsQuQf
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 5, 2020
For four years, Democrats have been haunted by the crumbling of the blue wall, the trio of Great Lakes states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — that their candidates had been able to count on every four years.
But Mr Trump’s populist appeal struck a chord with white working-class voters and he captured all three in 2016 by a combined total of just 77,000 votes.
The candidates waged a fierce fight for the states this year, with Mr Biden’s political persona resonating in working class towns while his campaign also pushed to increase turnout among black voters in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee.
It was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy.
But even as Mr Biden’s prospects improved, the US on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed coronavirus cases as several states posted all-time highs.
The pandemic has killed more than 233,000 people in the United States.
Mr Trump spent much of Wednesday in the White House residence, huddling with advisers and fuming at media coverage showing his Democratic rival picking up battlegrounds.
Mr Trump used his Twitter feed to falsely claim victory in several key states and amplify unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic gains as absentee and early votes were tabulated.
Our lawyers have asked for “meaningful access”, but what good does that do? The damage has already been done to the integrity of our system, and to the Presidential Election itself. This is what should be discussed!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 4, 2020
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing “irregularities” in several counties.
And the campaign said it was filing suits in Michigan and Pennsylvania to halt ballot counting on grounds that it was not given proper access to observe.
Still more legal action was launched in Georgia.
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of votes were still to be counted in Pennsylvania, and Mr Trump’s campaign said it was moving to intervene in existing Supreme Court litigation over counting mail-in ballots there.
The campaign also argued that outstanding votes still could flip the outcome in Arizona, which went for Mr Biden, showcasing an inconsistency in its arguments over prolonged tabulation.
In other closely watched races, Mr Trump picked up Florida, the largest of the swing states, and held onto Texas and Ohio while Mr Biden kept New Hampshire and Minnesota.
Beyond the presidency, Democrats had hoped the election would allow the party to reclaim the Senate and boost its majority in the House.
But while the voting scrambled seats in the House and Senate, it ultimately left Congress much like it began — deeply divided.
Mr Trump tweeted “Stop The Count” on Thursday morning with the race to the winning line of 270 electoral votes still to be decided.