US election: what happened overnight and what to keep an eye on now

Race for the White House comes down to the wire after Trump takes Florida

A trader watches an election map as results roll in.
Race for the White House comes down to the wire after Trump takes Florida
(Image credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s election battle looks set to go to the wire as results continue rolling in from a number of key swing states.

In a big boost for the incumbent, Trump has retained Florida and leads in Pennsylvania, where around 65% of votes have been counted so far.

But a number of routes to the White House are still open to Biden, who has secured a key win in Arizona.

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What do we know so far?

This hard-fought election is far closer than pollsters had predicted.

The biggest win so far is that by Trump in Florida, which carries 29 electoral college votes. With almost all of the votes tallied, media outlets have called the state for the president with a lead of just over three points.

Pulling off a “remarkable turnaround”, Trump managed to attract “conservative Cuban-American voters and other Latino groups” at a rate that swung the result his way, despite middling gains for Biden among white Floridians, The New York Times reports.

Victory in the Sunshine State was a “big though not huge” moment for Team Trump, “mainly because it would have been all but impossible for him to win back the White House without capturing this state’s 29 Electoral College votes again”, the paper adds.

But Biden has won Arizona, becoming the first Democratic candidate to take the state since Bill Clinton in 1996. The win has given Biden “some leeway”, after he “suffered early setbacks in his efforts to oust Trump in Florida and probably other southern states”, says The Times.

With Arizona’s 11 electoral college votes, Biden can now get over the line and win the White House without winning Pennsylvania, after Fox News, CNN and NBC News all called Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District in his favour, The Hill reports.

This route would require Biden to win Wisconsin and Michigan too. But whether he has pulled off that double may remain unclear until later this week.

In Michigan, which has 16 electoral college votes, “counting the millions of mail-in ballots couldn’t begin until election day and may take several days to complete”, The Washington Post says.

Wisconsin, which has ten electoral votes, will probably announce today, with the result likely to be mighty close.

What to look out for next

The key states to look out for today are Arizona and Wisconsin, which are expected to announce results shortly. If Biden wins both, he does not need to win Pennsylvania thanks to his victory in Nebraska.

However, if those yet-to-declare states go to the president, it could be a nervy wait to see what happens elsewhere, with Michigan and Pennsylvania likely to declare later in the week.

Biden is also the favorite - just - to win Nevada and its six electoral votes. With his win in Arizona, he could secure the top job by winning 26 more electoral votes from those up for grabs in five swing states: Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10), Georgia (16) and North Carolina (15).

Winning any two of these states would get him to 270, unless they are Wisconsin and North Carolina, which would set us up for a potential 269-269 electoral college tie.

And as always, it is worth keeping one eye on the president. This morning, Trump baselessly claimed that he had “frankly won” the election. Speaking to his supporters from the White House, he added: “This is a fraud on the American public. We will win this. As far as I’m concerned we already have.”

Whichever way the incoming results go, Trump’s reaction will set the scene for the coming days and weeks.

Were the pollsters wrong?

Just two days ago, The New York Times predicted that Trump needed “a huge polling error” in order to win. And the closeness of the race suggests that he may have got just that - even if it does not see him over the line.

“The pollsters who predicted that lightning couldn’t strike twice - that their confident probabilities about a landslide victory wouldn’t be proved wrong for a second time in a row - have egg on their faces all over again,” writes Sky News economics editor Ed Conway.

Many pundits had predicted that Biden would comfortably win the keys to the Oval Office, with some even going so far as to lay out the route for the Democrats to win both Congress and the Senate at the same time.

But even if Biden wins the presidency, he now looks unlikely to take the Senate. “Democrats would need to gain at least four seats to control the Senate if Biden wins, which would allow a Vice-President Kamala Harris to break a tie,” The Guardian reports.

And “even if he wins, the cult of Donald Trump has not ended”, adds Sky News’ Conway. “Whoever ends up occupying the Oval Office in January will preside over a country which remains deeply divided.”

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