PHILADELPHIA — His back against the wall, a frustrated Donald Trump is lashing out, spinning an elaborate conspiracy theory as he tries to maintain his grasp on the presidency.
Convinced that Democrats and so-called deep-state forces are conspiring against him, the American president is vowing to take his fight against “illegal votes” all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
He claims, contrary to the facts, that he won the election on Tuesday and that the ongoing efforts to count mail-in ballots are little more than a bid to steal his victory.
Those ballots, which thanks to the pandemic have slowed the 2020 election to a crawl, were slowly eating away at the president’s re-election hopes.
In Philadelphia, Trump supporters were kept apart from a raucous, celebratory crowd of Joe Biden fans outside the convention centre where votes were being counted.
Pennsylvania is worth 20 electoral college votes — must-haves for Trump, who is lagging Biden in the race to the 270 needed to claim the presidency. Biden, who is within easy striking distance of the magic number, has many other pathways to victory.
In Georgia, another vital state for Trump that’s worth 16 electoral votes, his lead was down to fewer than 3,500 votes as the supper hour passed.
Outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, supporters of both campaigns spent the day taunting each other from a distance, one side calling for all the votes to be counted, the others demanding that it be stopped.
In Arizona, however — where the president is lagging behind Biden — the Trump forces are happy to let the counting continue.
With his path back to the Oval Office narrowing by the hour, Trump has been mobilizing supporters and lawyers alike in the remaining battleground states, including in Pennsylvania, in a last-ditch attempt to keep his hopes alive.
Backers on hand Thursday in Philadelphia remained convinced he would win — and that something crooked was afoot if he didn’t.
“I’m a positive man, myself, but to be honest with you, I think it’s going to get very intense” once a winner is declared, said Christopher Wright, who drove down from Brooklyn, N.Y., to attend Thursday’s protest.
Not because Trump supporters would rise up against a Biden win, he said, but because of precisely the opposite.
“People on the left are like, ‘It’s over, Trump hasn’t won, it’s in the bag,'” Wright said.
“But there’s a good chance that President Trump is still going to win Arizona, and if he wins Arizona, the whole map has changed just like that.”
Under Wright’s scenario, Trump would also need to run the table in North Carolina as well as Georgia and Pennsylvania, two states where his lead has been steadily shrinking.
Trump’s campaign, which is blanketing the outstanding states as well as Wisconsin and Michigan with a flurry of legal challenges, did claim a modest victory Thursday after a Pennsylvania judge allowed Republican operatives to supervise the count.
The Associated Press says Biden currently holds 264 electoral college votes, although several other major media outlets have yet to call Arizona and its 11 electoral votes.
Both campaigns, meanwhile, have moved their fundraising efforts from pre-election solicitations to asking for money to help bankroll the coming court fights.
Tuesday’s vote was held against an unprecedented backdrop: a pandemic that has killed more than 232,000 Americans and triggered a debilitating economic crisis in a year also marked by fierce public outrage over the country’s racial divide.
Record-setting mail-in voting, which Trump has been railing against for months, made for an especially unpredictable election night — and as the days have passed, mailed ballots have been overwhelmingly in Biden’s favour.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2020.
James McCarten, The Canadian Press