Trump and Biden cede stage to voters for election day verdict

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

Americans will head to the ballot box today to decide between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden.

They will select a leader to steer a nation battered by a surging pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 people, cost millions their jobs and reshaped daily life.

Nearly 100 million Americans have voted early and now it falls to election day voters to finish the job, ending a campaign that was reshaped by the 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 was at stake, too: 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 was expected to remain under Democratic control.

Voters face long lines and the threat of the virus as they choose 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’s result.

Fighting to the end for every vote, Mr Biden was headed to Philadelphia and his native Scranton on Tuesday as part of a closing get-out-the-vote effort before awaiting election results in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.

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

Mr Trump, after a morning appearance on Fox News, plans 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.

The hard-fought campaign left voters on both sides eager to move on.

“I just want it to be done,” said Starlet Holden, a 26-year-old from Queens, New York, who planned to vote for Mr Biden but spoke for many on both sides of the campaign.

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

The 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 very fabric of the nation was at stake and offered his own election as the firmest rebuke possible to a president whom he said had spent “four years dividing us at every turn”.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden

“Tomorrow’s the beginning of a new day. Tomorrow we can put an end to a president that’s left hard-working 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”.

For Mr Trump, the election stood as a judgment on his four years in office, a term in which he bent Washington to his will, challenged faith in its institutions and changed how America was viewed across the globe. In a country divided along lines of race and class, he often acted as an insurgent against the very government he led, undercutting its scientists and bureaucracy and doing battle with the media.

The nation braced for what was to come — and a result that might not be known for days.

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