As Joe Biden moved to the verge of clinching the presidency Wednesday, President Donald Trump’s campaign prematurely, and against all available evidence so far, declared it had won Pennsylvania.
That declaration, which has not been backed by any neutral news organizations or analysts, came as the president faced increasingly steep odds, with the Associated Press projecting that Biden had won Wisconsin and CNN and Fox News projecting that the Democrat had won Michigan. If those calls hold, Biden would be on the edge of winning the presidency.
Facing that, Trump’s campaign abruptly announced that it had won Pennsylvania, the largest remaining battleground, taking no questions about their assertion and warning, without any evidence, of attempts to skew the Pennsylvania vote against the president. The campaign also sued to stop the ongoing vote count in Pennsylvania, even with around 1 million mail ballots still uncounted, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.
It amounted to an attempt by the president to short-circuit the counting of legitimate votes that would decide his political fate.
Trump has also initiated legal action in Michigan, while calling for more thorough counting in Arizona, where the president trails.
In Pennsylvania, Trump has more votes based on those counted so far. But with many votes still to be counted in some of the most Democratic areas of the state, including Philadelphia and its suburbs, the outcome remains unclear, at best.
Democratic and some Republican operatives say Biden has a good chance to win Pennsylvania, once all the votes are counted, and that the outcome looks close, regardless of who prevails.
Biden said he “feels good” about Pennsylvania.
“Every vote must be counted. No one’s going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever," Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington Wednesday. "We the people will not be silenced. We the people will not be bullied. We the people will not surrender.”
He added, “after a long night of counting it’s clear that we are winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.”
The Trump campaign wrongly declared victory minutes before Biden spoke, and just ahead of a news conference scheduled to occur in Philadelphia including Trump’s son Eric Trump and attorney, Rudy Giuliani.
The campaign also attacked the count with a baseless assertion that Democrats were “scheming to disenfranchise and dilute” the GOP vote.
The Trump campaign said it planned to file three legal challenges — including one that would seek to temporarily halt vote counting in the state over claims that Republican canvassing monitors had been kept too far away to meaningfully observe the process.
The Trump campaign’s moves come as other results around the country have left the president facing increasingly narrow political math. If Trump loses Pennsylvania, it would seal his defeat.
Early returns in the state are right now more skewed toward Trump than the final results will be, because Republicans voted more in person and those votes are counted faster.
But Pennsylvania is already seeing a “blue shift” toward Biden as mail ballots are counted, and large chunks of the remaining ballots come from some of the most deeply democratic areas of the state, including Philadelphia and Montgomery County.
While Trump had a roughly 400,000 vote edge Wednesday afternoon, Democrats, including Sen. Bob Casey, have said they believe they can win the state by more than 100,000 votes.
The Trump campaign made its own assertions, but with little evidence.
“We are declaring a victory in Pennsylvania. This is not based on gut or feel, this is based on math,” Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a briefing with reporters. “We have a high degree of certainty that the margin won’t be close.”
The campaign did not take questions about its assertion. Stepien said top campaign officials are in Philadelphia to ensure “we don’t see magical ballots delivered by Gov. Wolf,” a Democrat. There is no evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing in the vote count.
Wolf hit back at the lawsuits attempting to stop the vote and effectively attack the election itself.
“Pennsylvania is going to count every vote and make sure that everyone has their voice heard. Pennsylvania is going to fight every single attempt to disenfranchise voters and continue to administer a free and fair election,” Wolf said in a statement. “Our election officials at the state and local level should be free to do their jobs without intimidation or attacks. These attempts to subvert the democratic process are disgraceful.”
He added that in Philadelphia “officials are administering the election with the highest degree of transparency.”