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Joe Biden wins US presidency polls in a nation divided, reports US media

Reuters WASHINGTON | Updated on November 07, 2020

Joe Biden   -  REUTERS

Kamala Harris first woman to be US vice-president

Democrat Joe Biden captured the US presidency on Saturday, several major television networks said, as voters narrowly rebuffed Republican incumbent Donald Trump's tumultuous leadership and embraced Biden's promise to fight the coronavirus pandemic and fix the economy in a divided nation.

Trump immediately accused Biden of “rushing to falsely pose as the winner.”

“This election is far from over,” he said in a statement.

Biden's projected victory came after four days of nail-biting suspense over the outcome of Tuesday's election, with the counting of votes in a handful of battleground states still going on thanks to a flood of mail-in ballots.

Loud cheers erupted in the halls of the hotel where Biden aides were staying and around the country.

Worth every minute, of the wait, a Biden aide said, as campaign staff exchanged elbow bumps and air hugs in the lobby.

In Park Slope, Brooklyn, crowds of people gathered in the streets, breaking out in cheers, jumping up and down and banging pots. Across Takoma Park, Maryland, a liberal city bordering the capital, cheers erupted and some banged pots and pans on their porches.

Biden's task ahead

When the former vice president enters the White House on Jan. 20, the oldest person to assume the office at age 78, he likely will face a difficult task governing in a deeply polarized Washington, underscored by a record nationwide voter turnout in a fight to the finish.

Biden said on Friday he expected to win the race but stopped short of giving a victory speech. A Trump adviser acknowledged on Friday that the race had tilted against Trump, but said the president was not ready to admit defeat.

Biden had a 273 to 214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, having won Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes to put him over the 270 he needed to secure the presidency, according to Edison Research.

To secure the win, Biden faced unprecedented challenges. These included Republican-led efforts to limit mail-in voting at a time when a record number of people were due to vote by mail because of the pandemic, which has killed more than 235,000 people in the United States.

Both sides characterized the 2020 election as one of the most crucial in US history, as important as votes during the 1860s Civil War and the 1930s Great Depression.

For months, officials on both sides raised the spectre of the United States not being able to pull off a fair vote. In the end, however, voting at the polls proceeded with limited disruption as millions lined up patiently to vote. Thousands of election monitors from both parties worked for four days to ensure the votes were being counted.

Legal drama likely

The election drama is likely to play out for weeks, if not months. Trump, 74, is contesting the vote in the courts, but legal experts said his challenges had little chance of affecting the outcome.

Biden's victory was driven by strong support from groups including women, African Americans, white voters with college degrees and city-dwellers. He was more than four million votes ahead of Trump in the nationwide popular vote count.

Biden, who has spent half a century in public life as a US senator and then vice president under Trump's predecessor Barack Obama, will inherit a nation in turmoil over the coronavirus pandemic and the related economic slowdown as well as disruptive protests against racism and police brutality.

Biden has said his first priority will be developing a plan to contain and recover from the pandemic, promising to improve access to testing and, unlike Trump, to heed the advice of leading public health officials and scientists.

Biden also has pledged to restore a sense of normalcy to the White House after a presidency in which Trump praised authoritarian foreign leaders, disdained longstanding global alliances, refused to disavow white supremacists and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the US election system.

Despite his victory, Biden will have failed to deliver the sweeping repudiation to Trump that Democrats had hoped for, reflecting the deep support the president enjoys despite his tumultuous four years in office.

This could complicate Biden's campaign promises to reverse key parts of Trump's legacy. These include deep Trump tax cuts that especially benefited corporations and the wealthy, hardline immigration policies, efforts to dismantle the 2010 Obamacare healthcare law and Trump's abandonment of such international agreements as the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal.

Should Republicans keep control of the US Senate, they would likely block large parts of his legislative agenda, including expanding healthcare and fighting climate change. That prospect could depend on the outcome of four undecided Senate races, including two in Georgia.

Biden, set to become the 46th US president, mounted unsuccessful bids for the presidency in 1988 and 2008. His running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris, will become the first woman, the first Black American and the first American of Asian descent to serve as vice president, the country's No. 2 office.

Kamala Harris breaks barriers

Kamala Harris made history on Saturday with her election as Joe Biden's vice president, becoming the first woman and first Asian American to win the second highest US office.

Edison Research and the major US television networks on Saturday projected their victory, based on unofficial final results, even though the incumbent president, Republican Donald Trump, vowed to continue fighting in courts.

Harris, 56, is widely seen as an obvious candidate for the Democratic Party nomination in 2024 should Biden, who will be 78 at their inauguration on January 20, decide not to seek a second term. She hasn't weighed in publicly on such speculation.

A US senator from California, Harris has a track record of shattering glass ceilings. She served as San Franciscos first female district attorney and was California's first woman of color to be elected attorney general.

Her background in criminal justice could help a Biden administration tackle the issues of racial equality and policing after the country was swept by protests this year. She is expected to be a top adviser on judicial nominations.

Harris, whose mother and father emigrated from India and Jamaica, respectively, had her sights set on becoming the first woman US president when she competed against Biden and others for their party's 2020 nomination.

She dropped out of the race last December after a campaign hurt by her wavering views on healthcare and indecision about embracing her past as a prosecutor.

Biden looked beyond some of the harsh words Harris had for him in that campaign to name her his running mate in August. She has proven to be a valuable and polished stand-in, appealing especially to women, progressives and voters of color, all critical to the partys election hopes.

Harris, who developed a deep fundraising network during her Senate and White House bids, has been instrumental to Biden's raking in record sums of money in the closing months of the campaign. Her selection sparked a burst of excitement in the Democratic base and among the partys donors.

“Harris always made the most sense as a running mate for Biden because she had the ability to help him unify the Democratic coalition across racial and generational lines and was able to spike base enthusiasm,” said Joel Payne, a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

A TEAM PLAYER

Accusations from progressives that Harris did not do enough to investigate police shootings and wrongful conviction cases when she was California's attorney general helped doom her own presidential run but surfaced little during her time as Bidens running mate.

Harris has often defended her record, saying as she did in a town hall event last year that she had worked her whole career ”to reform the criminal justice system with the understanding that it is deeply flawed and in need of repair.”

Trump and his re-election campaign had sought to paint Harris instead as a tool of the Democratic left who would wield power and influence behind the scenes in a Biden presidency.

Prior to her selection, several Biden aides say that Harris was able to put to rest concerns among some in the former vice president's camp that she would be too personally ambitious to make a trustworthy partner.

Harris has shown herself to be a team player, taking on a lower-profile role and holding virtual and in-person political events that sometimes drew little news coverage, while often speaking in terms of what Biden would do for the country if elected and making an impassioned case against Trump.

Joe and I were raised in a very similar way, Harris said of Biden at her October debate against Vice President Mike Pence. We were raised with values that are about hard work, about the value and the dignity of public service and about the importance of fighting for the dignity of all people.

DOUBLE DUTY

Harris juggled her running mate duties with her day job in the Senate. Befitting her background as a prosecutor, she was a deft cross-examiner of US Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett at Barrett's Senate confirmation hearing in October, weaving Bidens campaign message on healthcare and climate change into her line of questioning.

Harris emerged this year as a leading voice on racial justice and police reform after Minneapolis police killed African-American man George Floyd in May. She marched with protesters on the streets of Washington and won over some liberal skeptics.

Asked on “60 Minutes” last month why, given Biden's age, he believed Harris would be ready to step into the presidency if something happened to him, the presidential candidate rapidly fired off five reasons.

“Number one, her values. Number two, she is smart as a devil, and number three, she has a backbone like a ramrod. Number four, she is really principled. And number five, she has had significant experience in the largest state in the Union in running the justice department thats only second in size to the United States Justice Department. And obviously, I hope that never becomes a question,” he said.

Harris is married to attorney Douglas Emhoff, who has been a fixture on the campaign trail. His two children from a previous marriage refer to their stepmother as “Momala.”

Trump's fight

For Trump, it was an unsettling end after an astonishing political rise. The real estate developer who established a nationwide brand as a reality TV personality upset Democrat Hillary Clinton to win the presidency in 2016 in his first run for elected office. Four years later, he becomes the first US president to lose a re-election bid since Republican George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Despite his draconian immigration curbs, Trump made surprising inroads with Latino voters. He also won battleground states such as Florida, where his pledge to prioritize the economy even if it increased the threat of the coronavirus appeared to have resonated.

In the end, though, Trump failed to significantly widen his appeal beyond a committed core of rural and working-class white voters who embraced his right-wing populism and “America First” nationalism.

Prior to the election, Trump had refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost to Biden - and he stuck to that approach. He falsely declared victory long before counting was complete.

Before Biden's victory projection and with Trump's re-election chances fading as more votes were counted, the president launched an extraordinary assault on the country's democratic process from the White House on Thursday, falsely claiming the election was being stolen from him.

Offering no evidence, Trump assailed election workers and alleged fraud in the states where results from a dwindling set of uncounted votes pushed Biden nearer to victory.

“This is a case where they're trying to steal an election,” Trump said on Thursday.

Urging patience as votes were counted, Biden responded on Twitter: “No one is going to take our democracy away from us. Not now, not ever.”

Published on November 07, 2020

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