Joseph R. Biden Jr. started election night many ways to 270 votes, but by Wednesday morning President Trump had won Florida, Ohio and Texas and was within striking distance of North Carolina.
This resulted in a diminished, but still significant, number of ways Mr. Biden could get his way, mostly around the retaking of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The once reliable “blue wall” says that Mr. Trump fell four years ago.
Here are the top scenarios Mr Biden and Mr Trump could win the 2020 election. The Biden scenarios assume he will win Nevada, a blue state in which he is just ahead.
One way is for Mr. Biden to win both Arizona and Georgia, according to Sun Belt, where he appears competitive with tens of thousands of votes yet to be counted.
Mr. Biden is ahead in Arizona, and winning there would put some pressure on him to rely entirely on the blue wall states. He can afford to lose Pennsylvania if he wins Arizona, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
If Mr. Biden prevails in Georgia and Arizona, he can get 270 votes while losing in Pennsylvania and Michigan or Wisconsin.
Or he could become president simply by winning back Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
In Georgia, where Mr Trump has a narrow lead with around 92 percent of the vote, a leak at a processing center in the central part of the state delayed the creation of some ballots for Atlanta and its suburbs, which are considered Democratic strongholds.
About 20 percent of the vote was not reported at 6 a.m. on Wednesday in DeKalb County, a heavily democratic suburb of Atlanta.
“Joe Biden’s path has been largely unchanged since its inception,” said Guy Cecil, chairman of Priorities USA, a leading Democratic super-PAC, early Wednesday. “There are still at least five competitive states giving him multiple avenues to 270. It may take a few days for the votes to be counted and we may have to fight the Trump campaign in court, but Joe Biden remains the favorite.”
Mr. Biden, who appeared just before his supporters in Wilmington, Delaware, early Wednesday, said he was “feeling really good in Wisconsin and Michigan,” and predicted victory in Pennsylvania, a pivotal battlefield that was recognized for its sluggish ballot count is notorious.
“We believe we are on the right track to win this election,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s victories in Florida, Ohio, and Texas did not open up a new path for him, but rather made new shortcuts that Mr. Biden could have used to win on election day. In remarks made by the White House early Wednesday, the president insisted that he would stick with Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – all states with significant percentages of ballots remaining to be counted.
“We don’t need all of them” to win, he said.
His last chance for a flip is Nevada, which was expected to be a close race but which Mr. Biden generally favors.
Otherwise, Mr Trump’s path to winning a second term will depend on holding on to the Great Lakes battlefield states, which he won in 2016, and keeping Georgia.
“Trump’s path is exactly the same as it was in 2016,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who is a veteran of Senator Marco Rubio’s campaigns. “It has to do above average in some traditionally blue states. Trump wins when voters who take Democrats for granted no longer reliably vote for Democrats. “
In Wisconsin, Mr. Biden was in Waukesha County, a suburb of Milwaukee, and Dane County, home of the liberal city of Madison, well ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 margins. The turnout in Milwaukee appeared to be lower than it was in 2016, which was Mr. Biden’s a worrying possibility given the city’s strong democratic lean.
Still, Democrats were confident that the final vote would benefit Mr Biden.
“I think if you look at what’s counted and what’s not, Biden Wisconsin will almost certainly win,” said Sachin Chheda, a Democratic strategist in Milwaukee.
And then there’s Nebraska, one of two states, along with Maine, which split their votes by congressional district. Mr. Biden won the state’s second congressional district, which includes Omaha. Nebraska Democratic Party leader Jane Kleeb declared victory early Wednesday.
“Omaha is Joe-maha now,” she said.
Since Mr. Biden won that only election in Nebraska, he was able to secure the presidency by winning Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin regardless of the result in Pennsylvania.