Democrat Joe Biden said Friday that he was going to win the US presidency as his lead grew over President Donald Trump in battleground states, although television networks held off from declaring him the victor as officials continued to count votes.
"The numbers tell us ... it's a clear and convincing story: We're going to win this race," Biden said, adding that he and his running mate Kamala Harris were already meeting with experts as they prepare for the White House.
Biden's speech was originally planned as a victory celebration, but he changed his approach in the absence of an official call from television networks and other election forecasters.
Still, it amounted to a blunt challenge to Trump, who kept out of view in the White House on Friday as Biden's lead grew in the four states that will decide the outcome: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.
Leading Trump by 4.1 million votes nationwide out of a record 147 million cast, Biden said Americans had given him a mandate to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, the struggling economy, climate change and systemic racism.
"They made it clear they want the country to come together, not continue to pull apart," Biden said.
Biden highlighted his 74 million votes, a record in a presidential election, and claimed victories in Arizona and Pennsylvania.
"We're beating Donald Trump by over 4 million votes, and that's a margin that is still growing as well," he said. "One of the things I'm especially proud of is how well we've done well across America."
Biden ran through some of the numbers that look promising for him in states like Georgia and Pennsylvania.
"We've rebuilt the blue wall," Biden said, speaking of "heartland" states like Wisconsin and Michigan. He also touted victories in Arizona, which has been won by a Democrat in 24 years, and Georgia, which has been won by a Democrat in 28 years.
He spoke to the frustration many Americans -- and maybe some in his camp -- are feeling watching the slow trickle of votes come in.
"I know watching these vote tallies on TV moves very slow, and as slow as it goes, it can be numbing," Biden said. "But never forget, the tallies aren't just numbers. They represent votes and voters, men and women who exercised their fundamental right to have their voice heard."
The Democratic nominee also promised to address the Covid-19 pandemic "from Day 1," but added he's never been more optimistic about the future of the country.
"I want people to know we're not waiting to get the work done," Biden said.
The former vice president urged "calm," and said every vote will be counted.
"We both know tensions are high," Biden said. "They can be high after a tough election. One like we've had. But we need to remember, we have to remain calm. Patient. Let the process work out as we count all the votes."
He said he hoped to address Americans again on Saturday.
Trump has remained defiant, vowing to press unfounded claims of fraud as his Republicans sought to raise $60 million to fund lawsuits challenging the results. But some in his camp described the legal effort as disorganized, and so far they have not found success in the courts.
On the fourth day of vote counting, former Vice President Biden had a 253-to-214 lead in the state-by-state Electoral College vote that determines the winner, according to Edison Research.
Securing Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes would put Biden over the 270 he needs to win the presidency after a political career stretching back nearly five decades.
Biden would also win if he prevails in two of the three other key states. Like Pennsylvania, all three were still processing ballots on Friday.
Trump showed no sign he was ready to concede, as his campaign pursued a series of lawsuits that legal experts said were unlikely to alter the election outcome.
"Joe Biden should not wrongfully claim the office of the President. I could make that claim also. Legal proceedings are just now beginning!" he wrote on Twitter.
A Trump adviser described the campaign's litigation strategy thus far as chaotic and disorganized. Another Republican official said it was doubtful the lawsuits would yield a Trump victory. Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, was diagnosed with Covid-19, according to a source familiar with the situation.
"This race is over, and the only person who doesn't see it is Donald Trump," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.