WASHINGTON – As vote counts continued to add up in the days after Election Day, President-elect Joe Biden’s lead in several key battleground states grew, pushing him to his Electoral College victory over President Donald Trump.
But unlike preelection polling led many to believe what would happen, Biden’s victory was not a landslide. It was, however, more than a slim margin.
With states that are now called, Biden leads in electoral votes with 290 to Trump’s 214. He appears poised to secure a comfortable electoral vote margin over Trump, all told.
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Here’s a look at how Biden’s 2020 election win compares with the previous presidential contest:
Key states that shifted blue
In 2016, Trump was able to increase his share of votes in many counties, particularly in the Midwest. This time around, while many counties continued the trend of growth in Republican votes, other places shifted back toward Democrats, notably in key battlegrounds such as Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Biden’s key to victory was to flip states that narrowly went for Trump last time.
In Wisconsin in 2016, Trump won by a margin of 0.82% of the vote. In 2020, Biden’s win in the state was by an even slimmer 0.63%.
Trump took Michigan in 2016 with a 0.24% lead over Hillary Clinton, but Biden reversed the state in 2020 with a 2.69% lead over Trump.
In Pennsylvania, Trump won in 2016 with a 0.75% margin. Biden holds a 0.68% margin over Trump in the state in 2020, with vote counts still coming in.
Trump also won in Georgia in 2016 with a 5.16% margin. The state has yet to be called because of an expected recount, but Biden was up by more than 12,600 votes, or 0.2%, on Tuesday afternoon.
The popular vote
As of Tuesday afternoon, Biden was leading Trump by more than 4.9 million votes, at 76.4 million. He broke the record for most votes ever received by a presidential candidate, which had been held by Barack Obama for his 2008 win. 2020 also saw record voter turnout. According to the U.S. Elections Project, the nation is on track to see the highest voter turnout for a presidential election in more than a century.
In 2016, Trump lost the popular vote to Clinton by almost 3 million votes (more than 2%) but won the Electoral College thanks to the right combination of states and therefore took the presidency.
Trump isn’t alone in winning the presidency without the popular vote; George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000 but won the election. Until then, it hadn’t happened since 1888.
Here’s how this years popular vote margin stacks up against the last two decades of presidential elections:
The electoral vote
Georgia, which appears to be going blue in its presidential pick for the first time since 1992, is still subject to a recount because of how close the vote is, and a victor hasnt been called. But Biden looks poised to win the state by a narrow margin and stands to gain its 16 electoral votes.
If he succeeds in Georgia, that state along with his wins in states like Arizona and Nevada would put him at 306 electoral votes, exactly the same number that Trump won in 2016 (though only 304 electors ended up voting for him).
Trump referred to his own Electoral College win in 2016 as a “massive landslide victory.” But now the president is launching a legal attack on the election results that experts say has little basis. The Trump campaign has made allegations of widespread voter fraud for which there is no evidence.
Here’s how the Electoral College margin compares to past elections:
How a contentious election affects a peaceful transition of power
What history has shown us about contested elections and peaceful transitions of power.
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