WILMINGTON, Del./WASHINGTON, Nov 7 (Reuters) – President-elect Joe Biden declared it was “time to heal” a deeply divided America in his first speech after prevailing on Saturday in a bitter election, even as President Donald Trump refused to concede.
Biden’s victory in the battleground state of Pennsylvania put him over the threshold of 270 Electoral College votes he needed to clinch the presidency, ending four days of nail-biting suspense and sending his supporters into the streets of major cities in celebration.
“The people of this nation have spoken. They have delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory,” Biden told honking and cheering supporters in a parking lot in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware.
The Democrat pledged that as president he would seek to unify the country and “marshal the forces of decency” to battle the coronavirus pandemic, rebuild economic prosperity, secure healthcare for American families and root out systemic racism.
Without mentioning his Republican rival directly, Biden addressed the 70 million Americans who cast ballots in support of Trump, some of whom took to the streets on Saturday to demonstrate against the results.
“For all those of you who voted for President Trump, I understand the disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance. It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, lower the temperature, see each other again, listen to each other again,” he said.
“This is the time to heal in America.”
He also thanked Black voters, saying that even at his campaign’s lowest moments the African American community had stood up for him. “They always have my back, and I’ll have yours,” he said.
Biden was introduced by his running mate, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who will be the first woman, the first Black American and the first American of Asian descent to serve as vice president, the country’s No. 2 office.
“What a testament it is to Joe’s character that he had the audacity to break one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country, and select a woman as his vice president,” Harris said.
Congratulations poured in from abroad, including from conservative British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, making it hard for Trump to push his repeated claims, without evidence, that the election was rigged against him.
Trump, who was golfing when the major television networks projected his rival had won, immediately accused Biden of “rushing to falsely pose as the winner.”
“This election is far from over,” he said in a statement.
Trump has filed a raft of lawsuits to challenge the results but elections officials in states across the country say there has been no evidence of significant fraud, and legal experts say Trump’s efforts are unlikely to succeed.
As the news of his win broke, cheers and applause were heard around Washington, with people emerging onto balconies, honking car horns and banging pots. The wave of noise in the nation’s capital built as more people learned of the news. Some sobbed. Music began to play, “We are the Champions” blared.
In the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, some people erupted in screams of joy as word spread. Several residents danced on the fire escape of one building, cheering while others screamed “yes!” as they passed by.
Trump supporters reacted with a mix of disappointment, suspicion and resignation, highlighting the difficult task that Biden faces winning over many Americans in more rural areas who believe Trump was the first president to govern with their interests at heart.
“It’s sickening and sad,” said Kayla Doyle, a 35-year-old Trump supporter and manager of the GridIron Pub on Main Street in the small town of Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. “I think it’s rigged.”
Angry pro-Trump “Stop the Steal” demonstrators gathered at state capitol buildings in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. Protesters in Phoenix chanted “We want audits!” One speaker told the crowd: “We will win in court!”
There were no signs of the violence or turmoil many had feared, and the pro-Trump protests mostly faded as the results sunk in. Prior to the election, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he lost, and he falsely declared victory long before counting was complete.
Former and present political leaders also weighed in, including congratulations from former Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican U.S. Senator Mitt Romney. Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham called on the Justice Department to investigate claims of voting irregularities.
The networks’ declaration for Biden came amid concerns within Trump’s team about the strategy going forward and pressure on him to pick a professional legal team to outline where they believe voter fraud took place and provide evidence.
Trump’s allies made it clear the president does not plan to concede anytime soon.
One Trump loyalist said Trump simply was not ready to admit defeat even though there would not be enough ballots thrown out in a recount to change the outcome. “There’s a mathematical certainty that he’s going to lose,” the loyalist said.
Biden’s win ends Trump’s chaotic four-year presidency in which he played down a deadly pandemic, imposed harsh immigration policies, launched a trade war with China, tore up international agreements and deeply divided many American families with his inflammatory rhetoric, lies and willingness to abandon democratic norms.
On Saturday, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien urged supporters to be ready to attend protests or rallies that the campaign is “propping up around the country,” according to a person familiar with the situation.