No clear winner in presidential race as vote counting continues, election hangs in balance

Battlegrounds and the presidential election itself are still up in the air

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Americans went to bed Tuesday night and woke up Wednesday morning not sure who their next president will be as slow returns in key swing states delayed results and making it impossible to call the race for either President Trump or Joe Biden.

With the outcome still up in the air, both candidates claimed they had a path to victory -- with Biden urging patience and Trump essentially declaring victory in comments made after 2 a.m. ET. 

"We believe we are on track to win this election," Biden said in an early morning speech in Delaware.

Trump declared victory in multiple key battleground states early Wednesday, even though it remained unclear who had the votes to win and hinted the White House would push the Supreme Court to rule over disputed ballots.

“We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Trump said.

The president was immediately contradicted by Vice President Mike Pence, who did not declare victory but rather said, "I really believe with all my heart ... that we are on the road to victory and we will make America great again, again."

Biden, on the other hand, told supporters at a drive-in rally: "Your patience is commendable. We knew this was gonna go long ... maybe tomorrow morning, maybe even longer."

"I'm optimistic about this outcome," the former vice president continued. "Your patience is great."

The competing comments came as each candidate notched wins in a handful of key swing states, the Fox News Decision Desk projected. 

Meanwhile, protests near the White House at Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington remained tense as the country awaited clearer presidential election results. 

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Trump, for his part, was projected to take Texas, Florida, Iowa and Ohio, while Biden was projected to win in Arizona and Minnesota. 

Michigan and Wisconsin have yet to be called, and it appeared full results in Pennsylvania would not come in until Wednesday or even later, after a contentious campaign that was rocked by the coronavirus pandemic. The Fox News Decision Desk also had not called North Carolina, Georgia or Nevada for either candidate. 

But Trump early Wednesday morning declared that the fact media organizations had not yet called the election in his favor to be "a fraud on the American public."

"This is an embarrassment to our country," Trump said. "We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election."

With several states still counting votes, the Fox News Decision Desk was not projecting winners in those states and therefore was not yet projecting a winner for the presidential election. 

Trump added Wednesday: "This is a very big moment. This is a major fraud on our nation ... So we'll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop. We don't want them to find any ballots at four o'clock in the morning and add them to the list."

"We will win this and as far as I'm concerned we already have won it," the president continued, despite the fact that he has not yet won the election.

"The president’s statement tonight about trying to shut down the counting of duly cast ballots was outrageous, unprecedented, and incorrect," Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a statement. "It was outrageous because it is a naked effort to take away the democratic rights of American citizens."

With polls now closed nationwide, many votes in some states, particularly Pennsylvania, remained to be counted -- not cast -- as the labor-intensive process of counting mail ballots was set to continue into Wednesday and potentially longer. 

A razor-thin presidential race could spur after-the-buzzer litigation over votes. There has already been litigation in Pennsylvania that some are speculating could lead to a repeat of the 2000 presidential race when the Supreme Court essentially decided the outcome of the Bush-Gore election. 

All polls in the United States were closed as of 1 a.m. ET, and as Tuesday night became Wednesday morning the result of the presidential election was far from certain -- with Trump and Biden both approaching the goal of 270 electoral votes.

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Races were too early to call in battleground states including Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia and North Carolina. And in the all-important battleground Pennsylvania, there were still vast swaths of votes yet to be counted, indicating there may not be a discernable result in the state until Wednesday or later.

The race will come down to those states and a handful of others as each candidate hopes he will reach 270 electoral votes, the number necessary to win the presidency, by the time the results are final. 

The Florida win for Trump was considered necessary for him to reach 270 electoral votes while the win for Biden in Arizona made his path to 270 much clearer -- and the path for Trump significantly more difficult. 

Ohio, Georgia and North Carolina were considered to be some of the other critical states to Trump's path to victory. Meanwhile, states like Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan were among the most important to Biden.

Pennsylvania's meaty 20 electoral votes -- which may not be decided for days due to the time-consuming process of counting an unprecedented volume of mail-in votes -- are considered by many to be the votes that could put either Trump or Biden over the top. 

The Fox News Decision Desk projects Biden will win Virginia; Vermont; Washington, D.C.; Delaware; Rhode Island; Connecticut; Illinois; Maryland; New Jersey; New York; Colorado; New Hampshire; California; Oregon; Washington state; Arizona; New Mexico; Hawaii; Minnesota; one of Nebraska's five electoral votes; and at least three of Maine's four electoral votes. That represents a total of 238 electoral votes. 

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The Fox News Decision Desk also projects that Trump will win Kentucky; West Virginia; Alabama; Mississippi; Tennessee; Missouri; Arkansas; Indiana; Kansas; Louisiana; Oklahoma; Wyoming; North Dakota; South Dakota; South Carolina; Utah; Idaho; Florida; Ohio; Texas; Iowa; Montana; and at least four of Nebraska's five electoral votes. That represents a total of 213 electoral votes. 

Election Day Tuesday marked the end of a presidential race where Americans -- who have cast more early and mail ballots this year than in any past election -- had their say on whether to give Trump a second term or go a different direction with Biden.

The year 2020 was highly unusual. There was an impeachment trial, an ongoing pandemic, racial protests and riots. The president was diagnosed with the coronavirus and a presidential debate was canceled because Trump refused to participate in a virtual affair after his diagnosis. 

But despite all of that, votes were being counted into Wednesday morning -- and perhaps a little later -- as Americans sought to elect a president as they have every four years since 1788.

"A vote for me and the Republican Party is a vote for the American Dream!" Trump said in a Monday night tweet as he made his final pitch to voters. "Over the next four years, we will make America into the Manufacturing Superpower of the World, and we will end our reliance on China once and for all."

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"We can overcome these crises. We can take our country back. We can win the battle for the soul of the nation," Biden said in a Tuesday tweet. 

There was no obvious winner, however, of the election on Tuesday night or early Wednesday because some states were taking longer than usual to count their mail-in and absentee ballots. Those ballots were more labor-intensive to count than standard ballots that voters cast in person. 

Some states, including Pennsylvania and North Carolina, also were accepting ballots that were mailed by Election Day but would arrive days later. In Pennsylvania, that period wil last three days while in North Carolina it will last nine. 

Therefore, with close races in major swing states, and a significant portion of the vote uncounted, it could be days or even longer until there is a clear result of the election. 

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Nevertheless, Election Night provided a window into several important issues that could tip the race one way or another: Election Day turnout; vote breakdowns in key counties in swing states; how independents are voting, and more. 

In addition to the presidential race, which is directing attention to battleground states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and others, the battle for the Senate remained undecided as well. 

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Races in states like Maine, North Carolina and more will decide whether Republicans, who are largely on defense this election cycle, will hold onto their majority, or if Democrats can take back the chamber. The races that were called late Tuesday and Wednesday, however, largely turned in favor of Republicans. 

The makeup of the Senate will be key in how much either Trump or Biden will be able to advance their agendas if elected, especially as the House of Representatives is likely to remain in Democratic hands. 

The Fox News Decision Desk called expensive races for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., over Democratic challenger Amy McGrath; Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., over Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, over Democratic candidate Theresa Greenfield. 

Republicans flipped one Senate seat in Alabama, with challenger Tommy Tuberville beating incumbent Democrat Doug Jones, the Fox News Decision Desk projected. 

The Fox News Decision Desk also projected that Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., will beat Democratic challenger and former Gov. Steve Bullock. 

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But the Fox News Decision Desk also projected that former Democrat Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado will beat incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., in a major flip for Democrats. Democrat challenger Mark Kelly will also unseat Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., according to the Fox News Decision Desk. 

The Fox News Decision Desk has projected that Democrats will retain control of the majority in the House of Representatives despite what Republicans are calling a successful election night for their House caucus. One notable seat that was flipped: Republican challenger Maria Elvira Salazar beat Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., in her South Florida district. 

Over the coming hours and days, Americans and the world will find out whether voters chose to continue with the vision of Trump and the Republican Party, or if they chose a new direction with Biden and Democrats. 

That result, however, could be the subject of intense dispute and eventually take a court decision to finalize. 

Fox News' Bianca Lumpkin and Brooke Singman contributed to this report.