Ballot Counting Continues
Tight Election Reflects a Divided Country, But President Questions Continued Vote Counts
OMAHA (DTN) -- With votes still being counted in states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, President Donald Trump early Wednesday declared victory and called any further vote counting a "fraud" that he would stop with a Supreme Court challenge.
The election was coming down to counting ballots in a handful of states that would carry into at least Wednesday and possibly later in the week to determine whether Trump or Democratic rival Joe Biden wins the presidency.
President Trump spoke at the White House before a cheering crowd of supporters shortly before 1:30 a.m. CST and declared that he had won the election, based on the early spreads of votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The president made it seem as if the states were still allowing votes rather than still counting votes that had already been cast.
"This is a fraud on the American public," Trump said. "This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election."
Trump said he would be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. "We want all voting to stop. We don't want them to find any ballots at 4 o'clock in the morning and add them to the list."
Trump was also upset that FOX News had called Arizona for Biden earlier in the evening.
Biden told his supporters late Tuesday night, "We believe we're on track to win this election." Biden pointed to the votes left to be counted in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. "It's ain't over until every vote is counted," Biden said.
Going late into the evening, it became clear the high numbers of mail-in ballots in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- which collectively account for 46 electoral votes -- would likely decide the election. Trump carried those three states by close margins in 2016 predominately because of strong support in rural counties.
Among some states Democrats hoped to flip, Trump maintained strong support among rural county totals in general, which helped him hold on to Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas despite polls suggesting Democrats could take those states. Georgia and North Carolina were both leaning Trump's direction early Wednesday morning, but neither state had declared a winner.
Late into the night, few states had actually flipped from 2016, though Biden was leading in Arizona by 130,665 votes and its 11 electoral votes with about 80% of the state votes in. Associated Press called the race for Biden.
In a couple of other major battleground states where Biden and Trump campaigned aggressively, Minnesota was called for Biden, driven mainly by high margins for Democrats in the Twin Cities and surrounding counties.
Iowa was called for Trump late with 53.4% to 44.9% with 97% of the state vote counted, again buoyed by overwhelming support in rural counties. Trump was leading in more than 90 counties in Iowa. It was a closer race for Trump than four years ago when he won by more than 9.4% of the vote.
The race was becoming close enough that the single electoral votes in Maine and Nebraska, which divide their electoral votes, could become critical to getting either Trump or Biden to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Biden won the 2nd Congressional District in Nebraska and he was leading in Maine early Wednesday morning with 85% of the vote counted.
Trump was expected to show strong numbers again in rural America. A DTN/Progressive Farmer Zogby Analytics Pulse of Rural America poll in late September showed Trump with a 17-point lead over Biden among rural voters. Those numbers appeared to hold nationally among the rural vote.
In a major shakeup for agricultural policy, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has lost his 7th District seat to former Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, a Republican. With 85% of precincts in the 7th District reporting, Fischbach had won 53.6% of the vote while Peterson had 40%.
Peterson's loss is a major blow to the agricultural establishment, which raised $1.3 million in his race. Fischbach has said she will seek a seat on the House Agriculture Committee, but she will be a freshman member of the committee.
Peterson's defeat means there will be a new chairman of the committee. The Democrats have maintained their majority in the House. The Democrats with the most seniority after Peterson are Reps. David Scott of Georgia, Jim Costa of California and Marcia Fudge of Ohio.
Democrats were expected overall to hold the House and gain seats, but multiple freshmen Democrats lost reelection bids in Iowa, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Virginia.
Freshman House Agriculture Committee member Rep. Abigail Spanberger, in Virginia's 7th District, was trailing GOP state Rep. Nick Freitas, who had been a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2018 before losing the Republican primary. With 99% of precincts in, Spanberger was trailing 60.6% to 39.4%.
Another House Agriculture Committee freshman Democrat, Rep. Xochitl Torres-Small, representing New Mexico's 2nd District, lost to Republican Yvette Herrell in a rematch from 2018.
In Iowa, Democratic Rep. Abby Finkenauer has 48.7% of the vote while her Republican challenger Ashley Hinson has 51.3% of the vote.
Democrats needed a net gain of at least three seats to gain control of the Senate and Democrats picked up seats in Arizona and Colorado, but an incumbent Republican held on in Iowa and an Alabama seat turned Republican.
In Iowa, GOP Sen. Joni Ernst was considered an underdog until late in the race, but the race was called for Ernst late in the evening. Ernst was leading Democrat Theresa Greenfield 51.6% to 45.4% with 99% of the vote counted.
In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut who is married to former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., has won a Senate seat from Arizona. Kelly defeated incumbent Martha McSally, R-Ariz., a retired Air Force colonel and pilot who has been in office since 2019, when she was appointed to fill the seat of Sen. Jon Kyle, who had temporarily replaced Sen. John McCain after his death in 2018.
In Alabama, Republican Tommy Tuberville, a retired college football coach, defeated Democratic incumbent Sen. Doug Jones, who was seeking a full term after becoming the first Democrat to win a Senate seat from Alabama in more than 20 years in a 2017 special election to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions.
In Colorado, former Gov. John Hickenlooper picked up a seat for Democrats in the U.S. Senate defeating GOP Sen. Cory Gardner. Hickenlooper was governor for eight years before seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2019.
In Maine, Republican Sen. Susan Collins was leading Democratic challenger Sara Gideon by a 50.8% to 42.5% vote with about 85% of the vote in.
In Georgia, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican, will have to go to a runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock after no one received a majority vote in a crowded race. Loeffler's numbers were dragged down by a battle with GOP Rep. Doug Collins, who came in third in the race.
Also in Georgia, Sen. David Perdue, a Republican, was leading Democrat Jon Ossoff late by 51% to 46.7% with 93% of the vote in.
In Kansas, the race to replace retiring Sen. Pat Roberts, the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, GOP Rep. Roger Marshall defeated Democrat Barbara Bollier by 52.7% to 42.4% with 85% of the vote counted.
In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell defeated Democrat Amy McGrath by 58% to 38%.
In Minnesota, Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat, was leading Republican Jason Lewis 49.4% to 43.1% with 73% of the vote counted.
In Mississippi, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, a Republican, and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has won her first full term in the Senate. Hyde-Smith is the first woman to represent Mississippi in the Senate and was appointed in 2018 before winning a special election to serve the remaining two years of the term. Hyde-Smith defeated Democratic challenger Mike Espy, a former Agriculture secretary, who also ran for the seat in 2018.
In Montana, GOP Sen. Steve Daines defeated Democrat and outgoing Gov. Steve Bullock by about 29,000 votes with about 86% of the vote counted.
South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican, fended off Democrat Jaime Harrison to hold his seat.
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom contributed to this report.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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