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Now what? The key states to keep a close eye on in the coming hours (and days)

Seven states are all waiting to be called.

Image: DPA/PA Images

AFTER A LONG night of counting, the result of the US presidential election is still very much up in the air with no clear winner projected.

Democrats’ hopes of a landslide Joe Biden victory will not happen, and Donald Trump has already threatened to go to the Supreme Court after claiming without evidence that the election is a fraud. 

It’s now getting towards the most crucial part of the count, with some of the swingiest swing states set to announce results of votes in key areas within the next few hours.

As it stands, Biden leads Trump by a projected 238 electoral college votes to 213, with 270 the magic number required to take the White House.

Seven states – Alaska, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina and Wiconsin – are all waiting to be called. 

Nobody can say for sure what’s going to happen next, particularly with such a large chunk of postal ballots left to be counted, but as crunch time approaches, there are a couple of clear paths to victory for both candidates.

Here’s what to look out for over the next couple of hours (and days).

Wisconsin and Michigan

The Democrats’ had hoped that Joe Biden could bag a crucial win in Republican strongholds like Texas and Florida, those gains never materialised.

At the time of writing, the only significant flip for Trump’s rival has been Arizona, giving Biden a projected gain of 11 Electoral College votes (though the state hasn’t been officially called for him yet).

But although that number isn’t as large as the 38 and 29 votes that Texas and Florida would have given him, respectively, his apparent flip of the western state has provided Biden with a big leg-up and a potential path to victory.

A win there and in the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin (10 votes) and Michigan (16 votes) would bring Biden agonisingly close to a win, putting him on 264 Electoral College votes.

But should Trump take Wisconsin and Michigan, it would bring the president one vote ahead of his challenger to 239 Electoral College votes (assuming Biden wins Arizona as expected).

Both states seemed out of reach for Biden earlier, but voting patterns have favoured him in recent hours. 

In Wisconsin, Trump had a 109,000 vote lead until the count for the Democratic-leaning Milwaukee County came in and Biden has taken a wafer-tin lead in the state.

Outstanding votes are yet to be counted in Brown County and Kenosha County with large numbers of mail-in ballots still to be counted in each.

Meanwhile, the gap is also narrowing in Michigan, where Trump won by just 10,000 votes in 2016.

Wayne County in Detroit – the largest county in the state with 18% of voting population – has a large chunk of postal votes left to count which are expected to skew heavily Democratic.

Democratic areas Oakland County, Ingham County and Kalamazoo County are also outstanding, with more postal ballots expected – but Macomb County, a Republican stronghold, also remains to be counted.

However, while they are critical to the race, current trends come with a major health warning: they saw significant numbers of people voting by postal ballot, and because they’re counting those votes last, it’s unpredictable how they will go.

Southern states (also, Alsaska)

Despite trailing by 25 Electoral College votes at the time of writing, Trump is expected to close the gap when results of some of the remaining states are called.

A likely win in Alaska, which still has around half of its votes to count, will add three votes to his total.

But it’s the two Republican strongholds targeted by the Democrats in the south, Georgia (16 Electoral College votes) and North Carolina (15 votes), which could play a major role in returning the president to the White House.

Results in each state are expected to arrive in the next couple of hours, and Trump currently leads in both of them.

If the president wins in the two states, it would give him an additional 31 Electoral College votes. Coupled with his expected three votes in Alaska, it would bring Trump to within 23 votes of victory, with Pennsylvania and Nevada still up in the air. 

On the contrary, if Biden causes an upset and takes either state, it could dent the president’s chances. 

Trump still holds a commanding lead in Georgia, where around 95% of votes have been counted so far – and it seemed definite earlier that the state would vote for the president.

The catch is that a large portion of the outstanding votes come from Democratic areas in cities like Atlanta and Savannah, though it still seems an outside bet that the state will vote for Biden.

Things seem more certain for the president in North Carolina, where Trump leads by a smaller margin but where there is less potential for Democratic gains.

Nevada

The counts giveth and the counts taketh away. Despite his predicted win in Arizona, the west hasn’t been entirely kind to Biden.

Analyses predicted that the Democrats would win in Nevada – which has six Electoral College votes – all night, but in the last hour or two, Trump’s gap has closed in a state that hasn’t voted Republican since 2004.

Biden is holding his lead, but by a margin of 8,000 with 86% of votes in the state counted.

The Silver State has stopped voting and counted all in-person votes and mail ballots sent up to 2 November.

Mail ballots received yesterday and ones yet to come in over the next week still need to be counted – that counting will resume tomorrow at 9am (5pm tomorrow Irish time).

A Trump win would be important for what it would do to Biden’s hopes as much as his own.

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Although it has a small number of Electoral College votes, a Democrat win in Nevada would mean the race would boil down to Michigan, Wisconsin, Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, with two giving Biden a probable win, or at least a chance of a 269-269 tie.

In contrast, Trump would need four of those five states if Biden wins in Nevada – and as we’ve seen, things are shaky for the president in Michigan, Wisconsin and, to a lesser extent, Georgia.

Pennsylvania

After all the predictions and overnight counting, everything may come down to the final state

Another Rust Belt state targeted by the Democrats, Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral votes could swing the result one way or another by the time it is counted in a few days’ time.

Whether it matters depends on which of the above states are taken by Trump or Biden by the time postal ballots are counted, which will continue to happen as late as Friday.

The state is currently 75% counted and Trump is currently leading by 55.1% to Biden’s 43.6%, but data from the Secretary of State today shows that the Democrat has won an overwhelming margin of absentee ballots in the state so far.

The New York Times is reporting that if Biden wins the remaining postal votes by a similar margin to how he has done so far, he will win the state – and most likely the White House.

With reporting from Gráinne Ní Aodha.

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