United States President-elect Joe Biden's winning tally is approaching a record 80 million votes as Democratic bastions continue to count ballots and the 2020 election cracks turnout records.
Biden has already set a record for the highest number of votes for a winning presidential candidate, and President Donald Trump has also notched a high-water mark of the most votes for a losing candidate.
With more than 155 million votes counted and California and New York still counting, turnout stands at 65 per cent of all eligible voters, the highest since 1908, according to data from AP and the US Elections Project. There was extensive early in person and mail voting this election, because of the pandemic and 100 million people voted that way.
Biden is running about 3 per cent ahead of Hillary Clinton's election tally in 2016 while Trump is 1 per cent up on what he achieved four years ago.
The rising Biden tally and his popular vote lead — nearly six million votes — come as Trump has escalated his false insistence that he actually won the election, and his campaign and supporters intensify their uphill legal fight to stop or delay results from being certified, potentially nullify the votes of Americans.
"It's just a lot of noise going on, because Donald Trump is a bull who carries his own china shop with him," said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian at Rice University. "Once the noise recedes, it's going to be clear that Biden won a very convincing victory."
Biden currently has an Electoral College lead of 290-232. But that does not include electors from Georgia, where Biden leads Trump by 0.3 percentage points as officials conduct a hand tally. AP has not called the race, but other news outlets have.
If Biden's lead holds he will win the Electoral College on 306-232 vote — the identical margin Trump won in 2016. Back then Trump described it as a "landslide".
Trump sealed that victory with 77,000 votes across three battleground states, while Biden's margin would be slightly narrower — about 45,000 votes across Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin. Biden also picked up Michigan and Pennsylvania.
That win is decisive by election law standards, notes Rick Hasen, a professor at the University of Irvine and an expert on voting.
While Biden's margins in states like Arizona and Wisconsin seem small — between 12,000 and 20,000 votes — those races aren't nearly narrow enough to be considered likely to flip through a recount or lawsuits.
Recounts typically shift total votes by only a few hundred votes.
In 2000, the Florida recount and legal battle for the White House was prompted by a 537-vote margin.
"If you're talking about it being close enough to be within what those of us in the field call the margin of litigation, this is not within the margin of litigation," Hasen said.
Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University, has compared Biden's still-growing popular vote and Electoral College margins to those of every winner of a presidential election since 1960.
His finding: Biden's win was right in the middle — tighter than landslides like Barack Obama's 2008 win or Ronald Reagan's 1984 wipeout re-election, but broader than Trump's 2016 victory or either of George W. Bush's two wins.
The closest analogy was Obama's re-election, which he won by virtually the same margin as Biden has now.
"Did anyone think 2012 was a narrow victory? No," Naftali said.
Despite that, Trump and his allies are continuing to try to stop certification of the election, in a longshot attempt to deny states the ability to seat electors supporting Biden.
These efforts are very unlikely to succeed.
However, they reached a new pitch this week when two Republican members of the board of canvassers in Michigan's largest county yesterday managed to block certification of the votes there.
They allowed certification to proceed after an outcry, but it was a sign of how deeply Trump's baseless claims of mass fraud have permeated.
In fact, argued Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks vote counts for the US Elections Project, the relatively narrow Biden wins in battleground states tell a different story than the one the President is pushing.
Democrats have been concerned that the gap between the popular vote and the Electoral College tallies is growing as Democratic voters cluster on the coasts and outside of battleground states.
That dynamic could make it difficult for Democrats to win congressional races, creating a lasting disadvantage when it comes to advancing policies.
"If there's anything in the data here, it reveals how the system is stacked against the Democrats, not stacked against Trump," McDonald said.
A handful of Republicans have acknowledged Biden's win, including former President George W. Bush and former nominee Senator Mitt Romney.
Others have privately acknowledged what they refuse to say openly: Biden and his running mate Senator Kamala Harris won the election and will take office in January.
When the Vice-President-elect returned to the Senate this week, her Republican colleagues offered their congratulations and Senator Lindsey Graham greeted her with a fist bump and a pat on the back.
The GOP's public silence on the reality of Biden's victory amounts to tacit approval of Trump's baseless claims of election fraud.
That has significant repercussions, delaying the transition during a deadly pandemic, sowing public doubt and endangering Biden's ability to lead the portion of the country that may question his legitimacy.
"The real-world consequences are perilous," said Eddie Glaude, chair of the Department of African American studies at Princeton University.
"The long-term implications are calcifying the doubt about the election and what that means for the body politic. It could lead to half the country not just being deeply suspicious of the democratic process but also actively hostile toward it. It becomes difficult to imagine how we move forward."
Republicans are closing the Trump era much the way they started it, by joining the President in shattering civic norms and sowing uncertainty in institutions. But their efforts to maintain a public face of support for the president began to deteriorate today.
Backroom whispers about the futility of Trump's legal fight have become louder after Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani appeared in a Pennsylvania courtroom making wide and unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in seeking to undo the election results.
Asked about the case, Senator Pat Toomey, R, said, "Let me just say, I don't think they have a strong case."
And when White House chief of staff Mark Meadows visited Senate Republicans, he encouraged them to "make the most" of their remaining time with Trump, according to two senators.
Senator John Cornyn, R, said the message from Meadows was "basically just that we got about 45 days left of the President's term."
Meadows told them the Administration wanted to make sure that if the senators "had ideas of things that the White House could and should do during that period of time, that we got them to him."
But even then, there remained a glimmer of denial.
"But he did, I have to be honest with you, he did say whether it's 45 days or four years and 45 days," Cornyn added.
Despite the private admissions, there has been no public effort to nudge Trump toward the exit.
A Monmouth University poll released today showed that while 95 per cent of Democrats believe the election was "fair and square," only 18 per cent of Republicans do, while 70 per cent of GOP voters believe some voter fraud took place.
Republicans have said privately there's not much they can do except wait, giving the President the time and space he needs to see the results for himself.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, perceived by some Republicans as the one man who could urge Trump to cooperate with the Biden transition, has instead steadfastly backed the President, saying he's "100 per cent within his rights" to legally contest the results.
GOP lawmakers have pointed to the more than 70 million votes that Trump garnered as well as his overwhelming popularity with Republicans, including among their respective bases of support back home.
The chatter that Trump is already eyeing a 2024 campaign has also frozen Republicans wary of his Twitter account.
They have also expressed fear that being perceived as forcing the President to the exit may trigger the temperamental chief executive to make further risky decisions, such as troop drawdowns or more dismissals on the national security staff.
And, of course, there is Georgia.
Republicans need to win one of the two runoff elections set for January in the state in order to hang onto their Senate majority and prevent a Democratic sweep of Washington.
Although Trump has not yet signalled much interest in helping with the races, Republicans have made the calculation that keeping his base fired up may be their best chance to secure a victory.
"Trump is behaving exactly as everyone should have expected he would do. Nothing he has done in the last two weeks is out of character," said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who advised Florida Senator Marco Rubio's 2016 presidential bid.
"And Senate Republicans are responding to him the same way they always do: Ignore him and focus on the Senate calendar."
"But there's no guarantee this works out well for Republicans."