Democratic challenger Joseph R. Biden ate into President Trump’s leads in key battleground states Thursday as Mr. Trump seized on allegations of fraud in jurisdictions from coast to coast to argue that the election was essentially being stolen from him.
Mr. Trump’s team continued a flurry of legal challenges and insisted he would emerge the winner as soon as Friday as Mr. Biden appeared on the cusp of clinching the presidency if just one additional state broke his way.
“They’re trying to rig an election,” Mr. Trump said Thursday evening at the White House. “We can’t allow anybody to silence our voters and manufacture results. We want an honest election and an honest count.”
Mr. Biden’s projected 264-214 lead in the Electoral College didn’t change Thursday, but he clawed away at the president’s once-substantial leads in Georgia and Pennsylvania in the hunt for just one more state to get the 270 electoral votes needed to win.
Mr. Trump gained on Mr. Biden’s lead in Arizona, a state that The Associated Press called for Mr. Biden but where a slow-moving vote count showed a thinning margin. Mr. Trump trailed by 1.6 percentage points, or 46,000 votes, with an estimated 10% of the ballots still uncounted.
“We have no doubt that when the count is finished Sen. [Kamala] D. Harris and I will be declared the winners,” Mr. Biden said in brief remarks in Delaware earlier in the day. “So I ask everyone to stay calm. … The process is working. The count is being completed, and we’ll know very soon.”
Anticipating that he will soon be president-elect, Mr. Biden set up a transition website and participated in economic and COVID-19 briefings in his home state.
The president’s team, meanwhile, stepped up accusations of voter fraud as more and more ballots rolled in.
“We have been getting countless incoming calls from people all over the country reporting the fraud and the abuse,” said Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien. “The Democrats’ lying, cheating and stealing is running rampant all over this country.”
Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said the Trump team was grasping at straws because they know the math is not in their favor.
She said the Trump team’s “meritless” legal challenges in various states are meant to “delay what is now inevitable: Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States.”
“There is no defense for the President’s comments tonight undermining our Democratic process,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said in a post on Twitter. “America is counting the votes, and we must respect the results as we always have before. No election or person is more important than our Democracy.”
In Georgia, Mr. Trump led Mr. Biden by less than 2,000 votes out of close to 5 million ballots cast for the two candidates, with about 99% of the expected votes counted.
Mr. Biden cut into the president’s margin there as more votes from the solidly Democratic Atlanta area were tabulated.
In Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump was leading by about a 49.7% to 49.0% margin, or fewer than 50,000 votes, with 94% of the estimated votes in.
The president was leading by about 600,000 votes on election night, but Mr. Biden gained ground as more votes from the Democratic-leaning Philadelphia area were counted.
Officials in Arizona continued to tabulate ballots in populous Maricopa County and elsewhere, though a final count wasn’t expected until at least Friday. Mr. Biden held a 50.1% to 48.5% lead, a margin of about 46,000 votes, with about 90% of the estimated votes reported.
The AP and Fox News projected Mr. Biden as the winner, but Team Trump said the president was on track to overtake Mr. Biden.
Trump campaign officials and others in the president’s orbit were increasingly venting their fury at Fox News on Thursday for calling Arizona for Mr. Biden on election night. They have said the state was obviously too close to call.
In Nevada, Mr. Biden held a 49.4% to 48.5% lead, a margin of about 11,400 votes, with an estimated 89% of the total vote in, gaining a bit of ground from his overnight lead of about 7,600 votes.
Joe Gloria, the Clark County registrar of voters, said he anticipated having “the bulk” of the mail ballots they have received into the system by Saturday or Sunday.
The Nevada Legislature enacted a law this year to send a mail ballot to all active registered voters in the state. Ballots received by Nov. 10 will be counted as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3.
Ms. O’Malley Dillon of the Biden campaign said the margins in Arizona and Nevada could well bounce around depending on the order in which the remaining votes are announced but that Mr. Biden would win both states.
“We are absolutely confident Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States,” Ms. O’Malley Dillon said.
Mr. Trump held a 50% to 48.6% lead in North Carolina, a margin of about 77,000 votes, with 95% of the estimated total reported.
Officials there indicated that the final tabulations might not be finished until Nov. 12 or Nov. 13. Mail-in ballots are accepted in North Carolina until Nov. 12 as long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3.
The president’s team expressed absolute confidence as they took new legal action, or threatened to do the same, in Nevada and Pennsylvania.
“We believe President Trump will win the race,” Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller said. “Soon it will be clear to the American public that President Trump and Vice President [Mike] Pence will serve another four years in the White House.”
The Trump campaign threatened legal action in Nevada on Wednesday, accusing the state of counting the votes of nonresidents, which is illegal.
The lawsuit added to a flurry of court challenges the Trump campaign launched in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan.
They also vowed to pursue a recount in Wisconsin, where Mr. Biden was declared the victor Wednesday and where he held a 49.4% to 48.8% lead, a margin of about 20,500 votes, according to unofficial tallies.
A Georgia judge on Thursday threw out the Trump campaign’s challenge that about 50 late absentee ballots might have been improperly mixed with other ballots.
A judge in Michigan tossed aside a complaint that the Trump campaign was not being given sufficient access to witness the vote count.
A Pennsylvania court did rule in favor of the Trump campaign by granting poll observers more access to observe the vote count.
The Trump campaign went to federal court to try to force Philadelphia Democrats to comply with the state ruling.
The president’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric expressed their anger at Republican elected officials for abandoning their father in his fight. They said only Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri have stepped up publicly.
Disgraced former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale tweeted Thursday night, “If you want to win in 2024 as a Republican. I would probably start saying something. Just saying.”
With the entire world casting its gaze on a handful of U.S. states, election officials said their workers were doing a commendable job under high pressure and trying circumstances.
“Like many of y’all during this election cycle, they are tired. Sometimes they’re going to forget to press the upload button,” said Gabriel Sterling, voting system implementation manager for Georgia. “Fast is great. We appreciate fast. We more appreciate accuracy.”
Mr. Gloria said workers were adjusting to new rules on mail-in ballots as best they could.
“I think it’s important for the entire country to understand that mail ballots on this scale are very new to the state of Nevada,” he said. “We made a decision here to provide as much access as we could as a result of the pandemic, and so our process has run a little bit slower.”
• Alex Swoyer contributed to this report.
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