Joe Biden stands on the brink of winning the presidency, needing to clinch just one more battleground state to defeat President Donald Trump.
Mr Biden already has won the fiercely contested prizes of Michigan and Wisconsin, part of the “blue wall” that slipped away from Democrats four years ago.
Two days after election day, neither candidate has amassed the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House.
But Mr Biden’s victories in the Great Lakes states have him at 264, meaning he is one battleground state away from becoming president-elect.
Mr Trump, with 214 electoral votes, faced a much higher hurdle.
To reach 270, he needed to claim all four remaining battlegrounds: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia and Nevada.
With millions of votes yet to be tabulated, Mr Biden already had received more than 71 million votes, the most in history.
At an afternoon news conference on Wednesday, the former vice president said he expected to win the presidency but stopped short of outright declaring victory.
“I will govern as an American president,” Mr Biden said.
“There will be no red states and blue states when we win. Just the United States of America.”
It was a stark contrast to the approach of Mr Trump, who early on Wednesday morning falsely claimed that he had won the election.
Mr Trump’s campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity to try to improve the Republican president’s chances and cast doubt on the election results, requesting a recount in Wisconsin and filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.
Statewide recounts in Wisconsin have historically changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes; Mr Biden led by more than 20,000 ballots out of nearly 3.3 million counted.
I’m confident that we will emerge victorious.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 5, 2020
But this will not be my victory alone.
It will be a victory for the American people. pic.twitter.com/ZqJBVsQuQf
For four years, Democrats have been haunted by the crumbling of the blue wall, the trio of Great Lakes states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — that their candidates had been able to count on every four years.
But Mr Trump’s populist appeal struck a chord with white working-class voters and he captured all three in 2016 by a combined total of just 77,000 votes.
The candidates waged a fierce fight for the states this year, with Mr Biden’s political persona resonating in working class towns while his campaign also pushed to increase turnout among black voters in cities like Detroit and Milwaukee.
It was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy.
But even as Mr Biden’s prospects improved, the US on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed coronavirus cases as several states posted all-time highs.
The pandemic has killed more than 233,000 people in the United States.
Mr Trump spent much of Wednesday in the White House residence, huddling with advisers and fuming at media coverage showing his Democratic rival picking up battlegrounds.
Mr Trump used his Twitter feed to falsely claim victory in several key states and amplify unsubstantiated conspiracy theories about Democratic gains as absentee and early votes were tabulated.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said the president would formally request a Wisconsin recount, citing “irregularities” in several counties.
And the campaign said it was filing suits in Michigan and Pennsylvania to halt ballot counting on grounds that it was not given proper access to observe.
Still more legal action was launched in Georgia.
At the same time, hundreds of thousands of votes were still to be counted in Pennsylvania, and Mr Trump’s campaign said it was moving to intervene in existing Supreme Court litigation over counting mail-in ballots there.
The campaign also argued that outstanding votes still could flip the outcome in Arizona, which went for Mr Biden, showcasing an inconsistency in its arguments over prolonged tabulation.
In other closely watched races, Mr Trump picked up Florida, the largest of the swing states, and held onto Texas and Ohio while Mr Biden kept New Hampshire and Minnesota.
Beyond the presidency, Democrats had hoped the election would allow the party to reclaim the Senate and boost its majority in the House.
But while the voting scrambled seats in the House and Senate, it ultimately left Congress much like it began — deeply divided.