US presidential election: Five key takeaways so far

What are the paths to victory and when will we know the winner?

At the end of a tense election day with historic turnout, here are five key takeaways as Americans head into Wednesday on edge and without a clear winner.

The election won’t be decided in a landslide

Democrats had hoped for a decisive and early victory for challenger Joe Biden based on his strong polling lead in key battlegrounds and some traditionally Republican states.

But by early Wednesday morning, it was clear that the fight for an electoral college win was going to be closer than pundits expected, and that Donald Trump was more competitive than some progressives had anticipated. Crucially, Trump won Florida, which was essential for the president to remain in the race and dashed Democratic hopes that Biden could be declared the winner early on election night.

The midwest will play a key role in deciding a winner

With Trump holding on to Florida, Ohio and Iowa, the campaigns are closely following the counts in the key battleground states that are too close to call, particularly in the midwest. In his early morning remarks on Wednesday, Biden said he was "feeling real good" about Michigan and Wisconsin, two states that went to Trump in 2016 and played a decisive role in the president's victory. Biden also said he was optimistic about Pennsylvania, one of the largest states to swing to Trump in 2016 when it went Republican for the first time since 1992.


Arizona could be Biden’s path to victory

Biden’s Arizona win could be crucial to his path to victory. After Fox News declared him the winner early in the night, angering the Trump campaign, the AP called it for Biden just before 3am. Arizona last voted Democratic for president in 1996, but the state has become more competitive in recent years. It was Biden’s first win in a state Trump won in 2016. The loss for Trump in this state narrows his potential pathways to victory. The win for Biden, combined with his win in Nebraska’s second district, means he can potentially win the race even if he loses Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania.

It could be days before a winner is announced

The counting process could drag on for days before there is a clear winner, as experts have been warning in the lead up to election day. Election officials in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan in particular have all warned that it could take days for the counting to finish and for clear election results to emerge. Depending on how the results play out in different states, this could delay the declaration of a winner. The delay gives Trump more opportunities to spread misinformation and falsehoods about the race and ballot counting, which he continued to do early Wednesday morning. In his remarks at the White House, the president made baseless accusations about "fraud" in the election and falsely declared victory without results to back up his claims.

Democrats may not flip the Senate

The hope for progressives was that a Biden win would be coupled with a Democratic takeover of the Senate, but by early Wednesday, Senate Republicans fought off some major challenges. Democratic candidate John Hickenlooper defeated Senator Cory Gardner in Colorado, and Arizona progressives were optimistic that Mark Kelly would oust Senator Martha McSally. In Georgia, one Senate race was too close to call and another advanced to a runoff.

But Republicans held onto their seats in Iowa, South Carolina and Montana in three closely watched races where Democratic challengers were close in the polls, and the Democratic senator in Alabama lost his seat to a Republican. Several key Senate races remain in play, though look favourable to Republicans, boosting their chances of protecting their majority. Democrats remain favoured to maintain control of the House, and some polls have suggested they could expand their majority. – Guardian