Joe Biden is approaching a record 80m votes, with ballots still being counted and having already recorded the highest number of votes for a US presidential election winner, as Donald Trump persisted on Thursday in denying the result and trying to overturn it.
In a gigantic turnout of the US electorate, Trump has now got a record number of votes for a losing candidate.
With more than 155m votes counted and California and New York – Democratic bastions – still counting, turnout stood on Thursday at 65% of all eligible voters, the highest since 1908, according to data from the Associated Press and the US Elections Project.
The rising Biden tally and his popular vote lead – nearly 6 million votes – has been overshadowed by Trump escalating his false insistence that he actually won the 3 November election and his campaign and supporters now intensifying efforts to stop or delay results being certified by state officials.
“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.”
Indeed, some experts are saying that the way the lame duck president is digging in on his false claims of victory and an election stolen from him by widespread fraud, as all the while his legal challenges fall one by one is actually serving to entrench his failure.
“Each [legal] loss further cements Biden’s win,” said election law expert Richard Hasen, Axios reported on Thursday.
But Trump’s last ditch could also be dangerous.
“History shows that any leader who constructs a major myth, that is later shown to be false, will eventually fall,” Harvard science historian and Merchants of Doubt author Naomi Oreskes further told Axios.
She added: “The risk is that he takes his country down with him.”
Trump has made up to 30 legal challenges so far and by Thursday morning, more than two weeks after the polls closed for in-person voting and the bulk of mail-in ballots were received, 19 of those lawsuits had been denied, dismissed, settled or withdrawn, NBC reported.
He is fighting the result in various ways in Pennsylvania, which tipped the election to Biden when it was declared for the Democrat on 7 November and he passed the crucial 270-electoral college vote mark, also in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nevada and Arizona.
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 which concluded on Wednesday night with every expectation that Biden would be confirmed the winner on Thursday.
The Associated Press, the news agency whose projections of winners in each state are followed by the Guardian, had not called the race in Georgia on Thursday morning, even though CNN has already called it for Biden.
If Biden’s lead holds he will win the electoral college that determines the victor for the White House with 306 votes to 232 for Trump – the identical margin Trump won in 2016 over Hillary Clinton, which he then described as a “landslide”.
On Thursday, Trump mounted an all-out assault on the election result in Michigan, reportedly planning to fly state lawmakers to meet with him in Washington and phoning county officials in an apparent attempt to derail the certification of Biden’s 150,000-vote victory in the state.
Some analysts believe the noise and confusion being generated by Trump is an end in itself, and sowing chaos is the goal rather than a real attempt to overturn an election Trump – and increasingly those around him – must know he has lost.
“This is all about maintaining his ego and visibility,” said Judd Gregg, the former Republican governor and US senator from New Hampshire.
He added: “He’s raising a lot of money and he intends to use it.”
The scenario of confusion and doubt is exactly what Trump spent much of 2020 laying the groundwork for, particularly with his unfounded claims that mail-in ballots would be subject to systemic fraud. That wasn’t true before 2020 or in this election.
“His response should surprise no one. He foreshadowed it well before the election and it continues his pattern of declaring victory, regardless of the actual facts,” said Tim Pawlenty, the former Republican governor of Minnesota.