WASHINGTON (AP) — After a campaign marked by rancor and fear, Americans on Tuesday decide between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, selecting a leader to steer a nation battered by a surging pandemic that has killed more than 231,000 people, cost millions their jobs and reshaped daily life.
Nearly 100 million Americans voted early, and now it falls to Election Day voters to finish the job, ending a campaign dominated by the coronavirus and defined by tensions over who could best address it. Each candidate declared the other fundamentally unfit to lead a nation grappling with COVID-19 and facing foundational questions about racial justice and economic fairness.
Biden entered Election Day with multiple paths to victory while Trump, playing catch-up in a number of battleground states, had a narrower but still feasible road to clinch 270 Electoral College votes.
Control of the Senate was at stake, too: Democrats needed to net three seats if Biden captured the White House to gain control of all of Washington for the first time in a decade. The House was expected to remain under Democratic control.
Voters braved long lines and the threat of the virus to cast ballots as they chose between two starkly different visions of America for the next four years. The record-setting early vote — and legal skirmishing over how it will be counted — drew unsupported allegations of fraud from Trump, who refused to guarantee he would honor the election’s result.
Fighting to the end for every vote, Biden headed to Philadelphia and stopped by a carpenters’ union hall and visited his childhood home and church in his native Scranton on Tuesday as part of a get-out-the-vote effort before awaiting election results in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. His running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, was visiting Detroit, a heavily Black city in battleground Michigan. Both of their spouses were headed out, too, as the Democrats reached for a clear victory.
Biden and his wife, Jill, started the day with a stop at St. Joseph’s on the Brandywine in Wilmington, Delaware, with two of his grandchildren in tow.
The four then walked to his late son Beau Biden’s grave, in the church cemetery. Beau, a former Delaware attorney general, died of brain cancer in 2015 and had encouraged the former vice president to make another White House run.
Trump called into “Fox & Friends,” where he predicted he will win by a larger electoral margin than he did in 2016, when he tallied 306 electoral college votes compared to Democrat Hillary Clinton’s 232. The president, who returned to the White House after 3 a.m. on Tuesday following a busy day of campaigning, also planned to visit his campaign headquarters in Virginia. He invited hundreds of supporters to an election night party in the East Room of the White House.
The first polls close at 6 p.m. Eastern time in swaths of Indiana and Kentucky, followed by a steady stream of poll closings every 30 minutes to an hour throughout the evening. The last polls in Alaska shut down at 1 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday.
The hard-fought campaign left voters on both sides eager to move on.
“I believe there’s a lot of division and separation,” said Kelvin Hardnett, who was among more than two dozen voters who lined up more than hour before the polling site at the Cobb County Civic Center outside Atlanta opened on Tuesday morning. “And I believe that once we get past the names and the titles and the personal agendas, then you know, we can focus on some real issues.”
On their final full day on the campaign trail, Trump and Biden broke sharply over the mechanics of the vote itself while visiting the most fiercely contested battleground, Pennsylvania.