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DEMOCRAT Joe Biden was edging closer to victory in the American presidential race this teatime, as he overtook the lead in the key battleground states of Pennsylvania and Georgia in potentially decisive developments.
With forecasts putting him just one state from victory, the challenger surpassed Donald Trump in the swing states this afternoon, as officials continued counting votes.
Former vice president Mr Biden overhauled the Republican incumbent’s leads by more than 6,000 votes in Pennsylvania and over 1,500 in Georgia.
Mr Trump, who is mounting legal challenges to improve his chances of re-election amid unsubstantiated allegations of fraud, has to win both of those states if he is to stay in contention.
Georgia, which the president won by more than 200,000 votes in 2016, has not been won by the Democrats since 1992. Pennsylvania, where Mr Biden was born, was narrowly seized from the Democrats by Mr Trump in the last election.
Mr Biden appealed for calm and patience, in stark contrast to Mr Trump, who used an extraordinary White House press conference to scatter unsubstantiated claims that he was being cheated out of re-election as he launched legal battles.
In Georgia, the former vice president took a slender lead over Mr Trump with an estimated 98 per cent of the ballots counted.
But, under state law, if the margin between the pair is less than half a percentage point, a recount will be requested, which Mr Trump is all but certain to do.
The winner needs to collect 270 electoral college votes from across the 50 states to claim their seat in the White House’s famous Oval Office.
Victory in Pennsylvania, where around five per cent of ballots still need counting, would hand the presidency to Mr Biden by all counts, with its 20 votes.
Georgia, with 16 electoral votes, is a more complicated scenario.
Not everyone agrees that Mr Biden has beyond all doubt won in Arizona and, without that, Georgia would leave him one vote short of overall victory.
He has secured victories in the battleground states of Wisconsin and Michigan, but Nevada and North Carolina also remain too close to call after Tuesday’s election.
Mr Trump on Thursday night alleged he is the victim of interference from “phoney polls” as well as “big media, big money and big tech”, and the Republicans took court action in attempts to improve his chances of victory.
“If you count the legal votes, I easily won. If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us,” Mr Trump said, with multiple major US television networks pulling away from his claims, which he has provided no evidence to support.
Earlier, Mr Biden had adopted a measured tone to say “democracy is sometimes messy, it sometimes requires a little patience”. He added that he had “no doubt” he will eventually be declared the winner.
“Each ballot must be counted and that’s what we’re going to see going through now and that’s how it should be,” he said from a stage in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, next to his running mate Kamala Harris.
Elections are run by individual state, county and local governments, and Mr Trump’s public comments have no impact on the tallying of votes across the country.
The Trump campaign requested a recount in Wisconsin and filed lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia – but judges in Michigan and Georgia have already dismissed the actions. Additional legal action was also expected in Nevada.