The biggest moments of Joe Biden and Donald Trump’s US election battle, from a Wisconsin flip to Four Seasons Total Landscaping

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For the best part of five days, the world watched as the United States set about determining which of Joe Biden or Donald Trump would be its president for the next four years.

Numbers were monitored obsessively, the key battleground states analysed to death, and every utterance from either of the candidates and their staff pored over to be placed in its proper historical context.

Though much is still to play out, these are the moments which came to define the 2020 US presidential election.

Trump declares victory, alleges fraud

For weeks, experts had warned that a conclusive result was unlikely to be reached on election day, mostly due to the incredibly high number of mail-in ballots that would be received and, in many states, could not be counted until after polls had closed.

It made some of the early numbers harder to read, though the expectation was always that the mail-in votes would favour Biden and the Democrats — historically this had always been the case, and the two candidates’ differing opinions on the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the phenomenon.

But in the early hours of Wednesday morning (local time), with counting in most of the key states a long way from finished, Trump had seen enough. In a White House press conference, the President said that he had “already won” the election, and baselessly accused the Democrats of trying to “steal” it.

Trump said he would go to the Supreme Court to ask for “all voting to stop”, and said a “very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise” the millions who had voted for him.

He offered no evidence for his claims but laid down a firm marker for the rest of the election.

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Donald Trump speaks in the White House late on election night.

Biden flips Michigan and Wisconsin

It was one of the first signs that things were going Biden’s way, and it proved a decisive early blow in the Democrat’s favour.

Michigan and Wisconsin were two key pillars that handed Trump the presidency in 2016 when he flipped them away from Hillary Clinton, but come election day 2020 and as mail-in ballots started rolling in, it became increasingly clear those states were ready to flip again.

On the second day of counting, both Michigan and Wisconsin were called in favour of Biden.

The Trump campaign promptly announced it would seek a recount in Wisconsin, after already taking legal action to try to halt the counting in Michigan, but the victories had already set the table for Biden and opened up a number of different paths for him to reach the White House.

Trump holds Florida with surprising ease

In the lead-up to the election, many highly-regarded polls in the US had Biden taking Florida, a key state that carries with it a substantial 29 electoral college votes.

Those polls, it would soon become clear, were well off — not only would Trump hold the state, he would hold it comfortably.

A side on profile of Trump looking downcast is reflected behind him
Donald Trump said the polls were intentionally made to look negative for him.(Reuters: Carlos Barria)

At the time, it looked a blow to the Biden campaign and partially fuelled Trump’s early confidence — indeed, in that 2.00am press conference, he made sure to note he had won the state “that we weren’t expected to win … by a lot”.

The result in Florida had a two-pronged effect. It gave Trump the impression the polls had been deliberately doctored against him — a charge he laid in a second press conference two days later — and led many to consider whether other polling may have been off the mark too.

Both candidates break popular vote records

A final result was still days away from being reached, but the 2020 election reached a significant landmark when first Biden, and then Trump, both surpassed the previous record for most overall votes received in a US presidential election.

The mark to beat was the 69.5 million votes lodged for Barack Obama in 2008. Biden passed 70 million on the second day of counting, with Trump not far behind.

Joe Biden gestures with both hands while speaking at a lectern. He is between two flags and a sign that reads BIDEN HARRIS
Joe Biden has received more overall votes in a single election than any candidate in US history.(AP: Carolyn Kaster)

As it stands, Biden has gone past 75 million overall votes while Trump is approaching 71 million — as he pointed out on Twitter, the most any incumbent president has ever received.

Biden pulls ahead in Georgia and Pennsylvania

After an initial flurry of calls on election day, the count slowed to a crawl as key states sorted through their remaining ballots. In Arizona, Biden’s lead had been strong enough for AP and Fox to declare him the winner, but Trump was closing.

Meanwhile, in Georgia and Pennsylvania, Trump’s early lead was being wiped away with every batch of results lodged. With Biden holding firm in Nevada, all eyes were on Biden’s charge in those two states.

Two women sitting at tables, wearing face masks and counting votes in the US election
The vote-count in Georgia was slow, and a recount is imminent.(AP: Brynn Anderson)

The wait was agonising, but finally, in the space of just a few hours early on Friday morning (local time), the scales tipped in both states. Biden moved ahead, and with the bulk of the remaining votes expected to favour him, it felt like a pivotal moment.

Georgia remains too close to call and is destined for a recount, but Biden getting his nose in front in Pennsylvania was the beginning of the end of this race.

Biden and Harris claim their victory

At 11.30am on Saturday in Pennsylvania, as Biden’s lead passed the crucial mark of 0.5 per cent of the vote — ruling out the possibility of a recount — the US networks called the state and the election for Biden and declared him president-elect.

Trump was on the golf course when the news broke, and had little to say afterwards. But for Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris, who had both been so careful not to follow their opponent in claiming victory too early, it was time to introduce themselves to the world as the new leaders of the United States.

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Play Video. Duration: 11 minutes 55 seconds

Kamala Harris introduces president-elect Joe Biden at Delaware rally.

Pointedly dressed in white while preparing to become the first woman to serve as vice-president of the United States, Harris vowed that she would “not be the last”. She called out the women who throughout US history had “paved the way for this moment tonight”, who had “fought and sacrificed so much for equality”.

Biden jogged to the stage to deliver his acceptance speech, where he thanked his family, revealed he would immediately join forces with the nation’s foremost scientific minds to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and promised to try to bring together a fractured country.

“I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide but unify, who does not see red states and blue states, only sees the United States, and to work with all of my heart,” he said.

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Play Video. Duration: 18 minutes 22 seconds

President-elect Joe Biden delivers victory speech from Delaware.

Four Seasons Total Landscaping

As the election was being called for Biden, Trump went on Twitter to promote a “big press conference” coming up for that morning. Initially, he said the event would be at the Four Seasons in Philadelphia.

That tweet was quickly deleted and followed by another which clarified that the event would not be at the popular hotel chain, but a small business called Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which is situated between a crematorium and an adult bookstore just off the Delaware Expressway.

A press gallery watches as Rudy Giuliani speaks in the carpark of a small landscaping shop
The press gathered in the car park of a small Philadelphia landscaping store.(AP: John Minchillo)

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani was put up for the press conference, standing in front of a Trump 2020 banner which had been pinned to a garage door. Giuliani ran through the Trump camp’s many impending legal challenges, and when he was told the election had been called for Biden, told a reporter “don’t be ridiculous”.

Nobody from the Trump campaign has clarified exactly what happened to this press conference and if, as expected, a case of mistaken identity led to the car park of a small landscaping business being booked out instead of an event space in a large hotel.

Rudy Giuliani holds both hands above his head while speaking. There are Trump 2020 banners around him
Rudy Giuliani speaks outside Four Seasons Total Landscaping.(AP: John Minchillo)

But at the end of five of the biggest days in modern US history, this was just the ludicrous icing on the cake.

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