Voters went to the polls Tuesday to write the final chapter in a presidential campaign unlike any other, in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 230,000 lives in the United States and cost millions of Americans their jobs, their daily lives and election day itself.
More than 100 million people had already voted for them before dawn, taking advantage of States' efforts to make voting safer during the pandemic. Among the first voters were President Donald Trump and his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, who decided to abandon the traditional photo shoot on Election Day.
The warring states, including Michigan and Pennsylvania, not only made news of 11-hour campaign strikes before the election, but also set a record of one day for new cases of the coronavirus. Contrary to Trump's repeated insistence that the nation is "rounding out" the virus, the United States is seeing more new infections than ever before.
Dr. Deborah L. Birks, who is helping to guide Trump's actions against the coronavirus, issued a strong private warning to White House officials on Monday, telling them that the pandemic is entering a new, "deadly phase" that requires a more aggressive approach.
Birks predicted that days would soon come in the United States when the number of new cases would exceed 100,000, and warned that Trump was holding similar rallies in which many participants gathered without masks.
The lack of containment of the virus has destroyed entire industries, costing thousands of jobs in travel, recreation, food and entertainment. There are now 5 million more unemployed than when Trump took office in January 2017.
And the recent recovery is showing signs of slipping as hopes begin to fade for many of the jobs lost in the pandemic to return quickly. Hundreds of thousands of new unemployment claims are received each week; 2.4 million people have been unemployed for more than six months. Since May, eight million people have fallen into poverty, according to researchers at Columbia University.
Millions of students do not attend classes in person, as many of the nation's largest school districts continue to offer distance learning or a hybrid that combines some face-to-face education with classes from home. And since the United States is still suffering from one of the world's worst epidemics, travelers have found a U.S. passport that is no longer welcome.
The nation remains divided and dazzled by the fear of unrest and violence. At dawn, the sight of plywood over the windows from Washington to New York and Los Angeles became a sinister sign.
Against this backdrop, both campaigns tried to set expectations, but not in the way that campaigns usually do. Biden's campaign is trying to remind people that the winner of the election will most likely not be known tonight, and many key states are signaling that it may take several days to release official results. And Trump has repeatedly made unsubstantiated statements to undermine the integrity of the election, with most polls showing that he is behind Biden.
But even in the face of additional tensions, there were long lines of greedy voters willing to personally reach a final verdict in the race, pick up their "I voted" stickers and walk away proudly from the democratic process.
Trump says he will declare victory "when there is victory, if there is victory.
At dawn on election day, President Donald Trump said in an interview with Fox & Friends Tuesday morning that he would declare victory "when there is victory, if there is victory.
Trump made that comment when asked when he planned to declare victory - and whether he would declare it if his early return showed he was ahead, as some reports suggested.
"I think we're going to win," Trump said. "I think the polls are, you know, suppression polls. And I think we're going to win. But only when we win. You know, there's no point in playing games.
At another point in the interview, when one of the hosts tried to get Trump to respond to criticism from his predecessor, former President Barack Obama, about the safety of Trump's rallies in the context of a pandemic, the president began attacking Fox News.
The network has "changed a lot," Trump said, falsely claiming that "they had more Democrats than Republicans.
He complained, "Look, this is different. I'm not complaining, I'm just telling people. But that's one of the biggest differences this season compared to last.
Trump sounded tired after spending all of Monday flying from rally to rally. He spent most of his last day of campaigning, attacking the Supreme Court, accusing it of putting "our country in jeopardy" by ordering Pennsylvania to continue accepting absentee ballots after Election Day, at least for a while.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, at the fourth of five rallies in four states, Trump falsely told the crowd that the justices had made a "political" decision that would lead his opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden, to cheat. His comments followed an angry tweet in which he accused - without providing evidence - that the court's decision would "allow unbridled and uncontrolled deception" and "provoke violence in the streets.
Twitter was quick to point out that the president's accusations were potentially false, saying that "some or all of the content posted in that tweet is controversial and could be misleading.
The President's comments in Wisconsin echoed his earlier comments in Awoke, Pennsylvania, where he mysteriously suggested that a Supreme Court decision could be "physically dangerous" without explaining what he meant.
Trump had falsely claimed for months that the mail ballots were the subject of rampant fraud, despite strong evidence that they were not true. In the final days of the campaign, Trump focused intensely on Pennsylvania, where Republicans legally challenged the government's plan to accept absentee ballots until three days after Election Day.
On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected a request by state Republicans to expedite a decision on whether election officials could continue to receive absentee ballots within three days of November 3. The justices said the court could review the decision after the election.
Biden: "You got to get over the tape, man.
Joe Biden returned to Pennsylvania, Scranton, on the morning of Election Day, addressing supporters outside Carpenter Union Hall and visiting his childhood home.
"It's good to be home," the former vice president said during the start of the campaign, wearing a mask and speaking through a megaphone with Biden Harris stickers. "In Scranton, like you, I learned all my core values.
While communicating with his supporters, he used the analogy of athletics to finish the race: "You have to run the tape, man. You got to go all the way on the treadmill.
Biden also visited his childhood home, where he signed a message on the living room wall, "From this house to the White House with God's grace.
"I am watching you constantly," said Anne Kearns, who now lives in this house. "I am so proud of you.
Biden began the day by visiting the Catholic Church near his home in Delaware with his wife Jill and two grandchildren, then visited the cemetery where several family members are buried, including his son Bo; his first wife, Nealia; and his daughter, Naomi, according to the pool report.
The Bidens then traveled to Pennsylvania, where Biden focused on the final days of his campaign. After visiting Scranton, he flew to Philadelphia to participate in the campaign. He plans to return to Delaware, which he has represented in the U.S. Senate for decades, to speak to the people tonight. Biden, his team has made it clear that they plan to speak regardless of the state of the race and how President Donald Trump reacts to events.
Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, Biden's campaign manager, said Tuesday that Biden, who took Trump to polling stations in several battleground states, had plenty of ways to get the 270 votes needed to win the election.
He argued that he could win, even if he lost in both Pennsylvania and Florida, another vote-rich state where his campaign spent considerable time, although it's clear that losing in Pennsylvania in particular would be a big risk and disappointment to the campaign.
"We feel that we have a very good understanding
A voter wears a flag jacket on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020, at a polling place in Pinellas Park, Florida.
Photo by Eve Edelhite, The New York Times