Joe Biden has been elected the 46th president of the United States, beating President Trump with a campaign that focused on healing the country’s divisions and defeating the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden’s win was narrower than most observers predicted, and Republicans appear in a strong position to retain control of the Senate. But Biden was able to flip back three key states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — that Trump had won four years ago, giving him the margin needed to win the Electoral College. Biden also seems in good position to pad his lead, possibly winning Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, where votes are still being counted.
Trump has refused thus far to concede, and has raised baseless claims of election fraud. But the Associated Press has concluded that Biden has reached the 270-vote threshold needed for victory. Unlike Trump in 2016, Biden also won the popular vote and was holding a majority of the votes cast.
Biden called his campaign a “battle for the soul of the nation,” and rooted it in a bid to win back the trust of working-class white voters. The former vice president presented himself as a unifier who would turn down the temperature of political disputes after Trump’s divisive tenure.
“It’s time for Donald Trump to pack his bags and go home,” Biden said at a rally in Cleveland on Monday. “We’re done with the chaos, we’re done with the tweets, the anger, the hate, the failure, the irresponsibility.”
The win caps a political career that began 50 years ago when Biden was elected to the New Castle County Council in Delaware. He became one of the youngest senators in modern history, winning election at age 29. Biden will turn 78 later this month, which will make him the oldest president in U.S. history when he is sworn into office in January.
California Sen. Kamala Harris, who will become vice president, will become the first woman to hold that job as well as the first African American and first Asian American.
Trump, meanwhile, becomes the first president to lose reelection since George H.W. Bush in 1992, and only the fourth in the last century.
Biden blasted Trump’s failure to control the coronavirus, which has cost more than 230,000 American lives. He also said that, due to the pandemic, Trump would be the first president in 90 years to lose jobs over the course of a four-year term.
Biden led in national polls throughout the campaign, but his supporters remained anxious until the end, given his narrower leads in the key swing states. They were right to be worried — the polls were wrong again, badly underestimating Trump’s appeal just as they had done in 2016. But this time around, Biden had just enough margin for error to emerge with the victory.
Nothing came easy for Biden, starting with the Democratic primary. Biden pitched himself as the most electable candidate against Trump, and invoked his close relationship with President Obama. While his competitors ran to the left on issues like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, Biden stuck to the center.
But though Biden led in the polls, he suffered a near total collapse when voting started. After a fourth place finish in Iowa and a fifth place finish in New Hampshire, he seemed left for dead. But a timely endorsement from Rep. Jim Clyburn sparked a comeback in South Carolina, as Black voters led Biden to victory. Several moderate candidates rallied behind his campaign, and Biden handily defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders on Super Tuesday, effectively locking up the nomination.
The campaign was quickly overtaken by the pandemic, which caused shutdowns across the country in March. For many weeks, Biden rarely appeared in public, campaigning only via Zoom. In one of the most striking images of the campaign, Biden attended a Memorial Day service in Delaware wearing a black mask.
The mask became a political symbol in this unusual campaign year. Trump often refused to wear one, and mocked those who did as “politically correct.” The White House adopted a lax approach to masking, assuming that testing would be sufficient to keep the president and his advisers safe. The contrast between Trump’s recklessness and Biden’s caution was underscored on Oct. 2, when Trump tested positive for the virus. More than 30 White House staffers and associates also tested positive, many linked to a Rose Garden celebration of the appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
For the Biden campaign, the pandemic meant much less door-to-door canvassing, and the absence of traditional mass gatherings. The Democratic National Convention was held online, and Biden held a series of car rallies in the closing days of the campaign.
The campaign was also altered by the mass protests following the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police on May 25. While Trump spoke of using the National Guard to quell uprisings in several cities, Biden met with the Floyd family.
Biden, who lost his first wife and daughter in a car crash and his son Beau to cancer, has long connected through grief and empathy. In his convention speech, Biden reflected on meeting Floyd’s six-year-old daughter Gianna.
“When I leaned down to speak with her, she looked into my eyes and said, ‘Daddy, changed the world,’” Biden said. “Her words burrowed deep into my heart.”