Joe Biden Has Won the Presidential Election

Biden is just the fifth candidate to defeat an incumbent U.S. president in the past century.
November 7, 2020, 4:28pm
Former U.S. Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign kickoff rally, May 18, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Former U.S. Vice President and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign kickoff rally, May 18, 2019 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

It took a while to figure it out, but it looks like Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States.

Biden has won Pennsylvania, giving him enough Electoral College votes for victory over President Donald Trump and potentially ending one of the most divisive, chaotic periods in American history.

The Associated Press called Pennsylvania for Biden at 11:28 a.m ET., four days after the election, putting him above the 270 Electoral College votes he needs for victory—with other states left to come in where he leads.

“I am honored and humbled by the trust the American people have placed in me and in Vice President-elect Harris,” Biden said in a statement Saturday morning. “With the campaign over, it’s time to put the anger and the harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation. It’s time for America to unite. And to heal. We are the United States of America. And there’s nothing we can’t do, if we do it together.”

The win gives Biden the presidency almost a half-century after he began his political career, and more than three decades after his first run for president. It puts the blue-collar son of Scranton in the White House. And he’ll be joined by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman, first Black, and first South Asian person ever to serve as vice president.

Biden’s apparent win may not have been the immediate, resounding victory Democrats hoped for heading into Election Day, and his down-ballot coattails weren’t long enough to help House and Senate Democrats have the night they’d expected.

But it’s impressive nonetheless. 

Biden is just the fifth candidate to defeat an incumbent U.S. president in the past century. He has won the most votes in American history, topping his 2008 running mate, President Obama, who won just shy of 70 million votes. As of publication time, Biden had won more than 74.5 million votes nationally—with plenty of outstanding ballots left to count. His national margin is over 4 million votes and climbing, and he’s winning the popular vote by nearly three percentage points. Those numbers will all likely continue to rise as California keeps counting its huge trove of Democratic-heavy votes.

Biden flipped back Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and if his lead in Arizona stands (the AP called the race for him) he’ll be the first Democrat since Bill Clinton and only the third Democrat since World War II to win the state. He also won an Omaha-based House seat that had long leaned Republican. Biden clearly leads in Nevada, and has pulled ahead in Georgia, where a win would make him the first non-southern Democrat since John F. Kennedy to carry the state.

Trump has yet to concede, and has repeatedly accused Biden and his allies of attempting to steal the election from him. It remains to be seen how the coming weeks play out, and the president could generate plenty of chaos if he refuses to accept the results. But right now, it looks like he’ll be heading for the exits come January.

Trump has made clear he’s not ready to give up, insisting in spite of all evidence to the contrary that he’s won and that the election is being stolen from him.

“We all know why Joe Biden is rushing to falsely pose as the winner, and why his media allies are trying so hard to help him: they don’t want the truth to be exposed. The simple fact is this election is far from over,” Trump said in a statement from his campaign after the AP and most news networks called the race for Biden. “Beginning Monday, our campaign will start prosecuting our case in court to ensure election laws are fully upheld and the rightful winner is seated.“

Those lawsuits will go forward, and the election isn’t officially over for weeks until states certify their results. But Trump’s lawsuits have failed to garner much traction in the courts so far. It’s likely all over but the shouting.

Biden’s win comes after one of the most bizarre and tumultuous presidential campaigns in history, overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic as well as a national reckoning with racism and police violence that led to the most widespread protests in a generation.

The COVID pandemic had a real-life impact on the campaign itself, as well. While Trump continued to hold massive rallies, Biden opted to avoid risking people’s lives and health and remained off the campaign trail for most of the summer, only returning in the fall for small, socially distanced and mostly outdoor events. For safety reasons, Biden’s team also suspended door-knocking efforts, historically the most effective get out the vote operations, until late in the campaign, giving the GOP a structural advantage in turning out voters.

But in spite of all the chaos of 2020, the race remained remarkably stable throughout the year. Biden led Trump since the moment he announced his presidential campaign in early 2019, and from the moment he won the Democratic nomination in March and COVID hit had a comfortable lead throughout the race in public polls. Trump’s unpopularity remained a drag on him for the entirety of the campaign, and Biden’s nomination and the economic fallout from the pandemic meant his plan to run on a strong economy and against socialism didn’t end up working too well in practice.

Those polls turned out to be a bit too bullish on Biden’s chances — but he won nonetheless.

Now comes the hard part.

The president-elect will take over a deeply divided country stricken by the coronavirus and shaken by its economic impact. His opponent, President Trump, also won more popular votes than any Republican nominee in history, and the broad-based appeal of Trump’s brand of populism isn’t going away.

America has recorded more than 100,000 new COVID-19 cases a day multiple times this week, setting new records. More than 12 million Americans are unemployed, and the economy may soon head south again as the government’s initial surge in pandemic assistance spending to help people has dried up and as state and local governments are forced to lay off scores of workers to help cover budget shortfalls created by the pandemic. 

Biden’s campaign also focused on a simple message that may not give him a policy mandate: He wasn’t Trump. From the start, he promised a return to decency, pledging to work to heal America’s open wounds. His campaign ads focused heavily on Trump’s failure to respond to COVID-19, but the specifics of his plan to finally try to get the exploding pandemic under control, as well as his “build back better” plan to rebuild the U.S. economy, could face tough hurdles in a divided Washington. That’s to say nothing of his other major pledges to expand healthcare access and try to get climate change under control. A solid majority of American voters galvanized to defeat Trump, but it’s unclear whether a clear majority will be firmly behind Biden’s specific policy proposals.

And Biden’s failure to blow out Trump, combined with down-ticket Democrats’ struggles, means he won’t have much of a governing coalition to work with. 

Republicans currently have 50 Senate seats, with two Georgia seats heading to runoffs that will determine Senate control. If Democrats don’t win both seats, any legislation Biden wants to accomplish will have to get through a GOP-controlled Senate. If they manage to win them and get to 50 votes, they’ll have to hold together every single Democrat to pass any legislation.

House Democrats went into Election Day expecting to gain between five and fifteen seats, but instead it looks like they’ve lost seats and will see their majority shrink. 

And while it looks like Trump is on the way out, it doesn’t mean he’ll go quietly. Trump is president for two more months, and with a nation facing surging COVID cases and no clear timeline for a vaccine it could be a long, cold winter in America without help from the federal government.

This will be Biden’s second time entering a presidential administration facing an economic crisis — he helped President Obama navigate the wreckage of the 2008 economic collapse. But he’ll have to find a way to do so this time while also managing the largest public health crisis in a century — and do so with a potentially hostile Senate, and almost half the country against him from the jump.

And if the past is any indication, Trump isn’t going anywhere. While he may not have the power of the presidency, he remains the most powerful person in the Republican Party — and  is unlikely to back away from his role as tweeter-in-chief, making it politically dangerous for any Republican to work with Biden.