Trump and Biden cede stage to voters for election day verdict

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Trump and Biden go head to head
Challenger Joe Biden and President Donald Trump

Americans are voting to decide between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, selecting a leader to steer a nation battered by a surging pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 people, cost millions their jobs and reshaped daily life.

Nearly 100 million Americans voted early, and now it falls to election day voters to finish the job, ending a campaign that was upended by coronavirus and defined by tensions over who could best address it.

Each candidate declared the other fundamentally unfit to lead a nation grappling with Covid-19 and facing foundational questions about racial justice and economic fairness.

Mr Biden entered election day with multiple paths to victory while Mr Trump, playing catch-up in a number of battleground states, had a narrower but still feasible road to clinch 270 electoral college votes.

Control of the Senate is also at stake: Democrats need to net three seats if Mr Biden captures the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. The House of Representatives is expected to remain under Democratic control.

Voters braved long queues and the threat of the virus to cast ballots as they chose between two starkly different visions of America for the next four years.

The record-setting early vote — and legal skirmishing over how it will be counted — drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Mr Trump, who refused to guarantee he would honour the election result.

Fighting to the end for every vote, Mr Biden was heading to Philadelphia and stopped by a carpenters’ union hall and visited his childhood home in his native Scranton as part of a closing get-out-the-vote effort before awaiting election results in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware.

His running mate, Kamala Harris, was visiting Detroit, a heavily black city in battleground Michigan. Both of their spouses were headed out too as the Democrats reached for a clear victory.

Mr Biden and his wife Jill started the day with a stop in Wilmington, Delaware, with two of his grandchildren. After a brief church visit, the four walked to his late son Beau’s grave, in the church cemetery. Beau, a former Delaware attorney general, died of brain cancer in 2015 and had encouraged the former vice president to make another White House run.

Mr Trump made a morning appearance on Fox News where he predicted he will win by a larger electoral margin than he did in 2016, when he tallied 306 electoral college votes compared with Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 232.

Melania Trump was the only person not wearing a mask to guard against coronavirus when she entered a recreation centre in Palm Beach, Florida, to vote.

Her spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said the first lady was the only person in the polling site, with the exception of a couple of poll workers and her own staff, all of whom had been tested.

The president, who returned to the White House after 3am on Tuesday following a busy day of campaigning, also planned to visit his campaign headquarters in Virginia. He invited hundreds of supporters to an election night party in the East Room of the White House.

On their final full day on the campaign trail, the two men broke sharply over the mechanics of the vote itself while visiting the most fiercely contested battleground, Pennsylvania.

The Republican president threatened legal action to block the counting of ballots received after election day. If Pennsylvania ballot counting takes several days, as is allowed, Mr Trump claimed without evidence that “cheating can happen like you have never seen”.

In fact, there are roughly 20 states that allow mail-in ballots received after election day to be counted — up to nine days and longer in some states. Litigation has centred on just a few where states have made changes in large part due to coronavirus.

Mr Biden told voters in Pennsylvania that the fabric of the nation is at stake and offered his own election as the firmest rebuke possible to a president who he said had spent “four years dividing us at every turn”.

“Tomorrow’s the beginning of a new day. Tomorrow we can put an end to a president that’s left hardworking Americans out in the cold,” Mr Biden said in Pittsburgh. “If you elect me as president, I’m gonna act to heal this country.”

Mr Trump argued, at a stop in Wisconsin, that Mr Biden was “not what our country needs”, adding: “This isn’t about… yeah, it is about me, I guess, when you think about it.”

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