Officials in key battlegrounds pressed forward with presidential vote counting yesterday as Joe Biden urged patience and Donald Trump pursued legal options, insisting the processing of ballots should be stopped.
The president spent yesterday at the White House, working the phones and escalating efforts to sow doubt about the outcome of the race.
In a series of tweets, he pushed baseless allegations of electoral misconduct and said the counting of ballots submitted before and on election day should cease. He followed up with an official campaign statement.
"If you count the legal votes, I easily win the election! If you count the illegal and late votes, they can steal the election from us!" he contended.
Mr Biden, meanwhile, sought to project the appearance of a president, attending a Covid-19 briefing yesterday.
He offered reassurance that the vote counting process could be trusted.
"Be patient. Votes are being counted, and we feel good about where we are," he tweeted.
The different approaches unfolded as the nation waited to learn which man would collect the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the US presidency.
Mr Biden's victories in Michigan and Wisconsin put him in a commanding position, but Mr Trump showed no sign of giving up.
It could take several more days for the count to conclude and a clear winner to emerge.
With millions of ballots yet to be tabulated, Mr Biden already had received more than 72 million votes, the most in history.
Mr Trump's campaign engaged in a flurry of legal activity to try to improve the Republican president's chances, requesting a recount in Wisconsin and filing lawsuits in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia.
Statewide recounts in Wis- consin have in the past changed the vote tally by only a few hundred votes
Judges in Georgia and Michigan quickly dismissed Trump campaign lawsuits there yesterday.
Mr Biden has already won Michigan and Wisconsin. The contests in Georgia and Pennsylvania, along with Nevada and North Carolina, were tight, with votes still being tabulated.
The Trump campaign said it was confident the president would ultimately pull out a victory in Arizona, where votes were also still being counted.
Mr Trump's legal challenges also face long odds. He would have to win multiple suits in multiple states in order to stop vote counts, since more than one state was undeclared.
There were no obvious grounds for the Justice Department to attempt to intervene to stop a vote count at the state level, unless the federal government could somehow assert a violation of federal voting laws or the constitution.
The department could theoretically file a brief in support of a Trump campaign lawsuit if it believed there were federal concerns at stake, but that intervention would be extraordinary.
While the president has insisted that ballot counting stop, it was unclear exactly what that included.
Counting for votes received by Tuesday was continuing, but roughly 20 states allow ballots to be counted if postmarked by November 3 but received in the days after.
In some states that is as long as nine days, or sometimes even longer.
Some of the deadline changes were made as a result of the pandemic, but others are just routine parts of state election laws.
Mr Trump has fixated on Pennsylvania, where the Supreme Court refused to stop a court's ruling that allowed for a three-day extension.
He also said he was taking fraud claims to court, but most of the lawsuits only demand better access for campaign observers to locations where ballots are being processed and counted.
A judge in Georgia dismissed the campaign's suit there less than 12 hours after it was filed, and a Michigan judge dismissed a Trump lawsuit over whether enough GOP challengers had access to handling of absentee ballots
Mr Biden's lawyer Bob Bauer said the suits were legally "meritless".
Their only purpose, he said, "is to create an opportunity for them to message falsely about what's taking place in the electoral process".
It was unclear when a national winner would be determined after a long, bitter campaign dominated by the coronavirus and its effects on Americans and the national economy.
The US on Wednesday set another record for daily confirmed cases as several states posted all-time highs.
The pandemic has killed more than 235,000 people in the country.