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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Biden projected winner of Michigan and Wisconsin but legal challenges loom

As of this writing, CBS News has projected former Vice President Joe Biden will win Wisconsin. He is ahead there by 20,000 votes, ironically roughly the same margin Hillary Clinton lost the state by in 2016, reports CBS News campaign reporter Cara Korte. The Trump campaign has called for a recount in the state. Wisconsin officials are well practiced in recounts - Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein paid for a recount in 2016, with no discernable change in vote totals. In Michigan CBS News projects Biden is the winner. The last piece of the Blue Wall and Biden's home state of Pennsylvania is also in the air. While President Trump currently has a commanding lead +6 points over Biden, more than a million votes have not been counted and most of those are going to come from deep blue Philadelphia, and offices there have said not expect those results today. In Georgia, the president leads Biden by roughly 83,000 votes. However, like Pennsylvania, the outstanding ballots are from the mail and a Democratic stronghold metro area: Fulton County (Atlanta). Mail ballots throughout the country have been cast by more Democrats than Republicans, according to Korte. The Trump campaign has also filed lawsuits in Michigan and Pennsylvania, seeking to stop ballot counting in the battleground states, according to CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga. These efforts are part of an ongoing strategy from the Trump campaign to litigate their way to an Electoral College victory.

Biden leads in Nevada but by less than a point with plenty of ballots remaining. Originally, officials said they would not report results again until tomorrow, but they changed their mind midday, saying that high interest pushed them to report results this evening. The situation is similar in Arizona, however Biden has a slightly larger lead of nearly 2.5 points. More than a quarter million Maricopa County mail ballots were still uncounted early Wednesday. Finally, in North Carolina where results are favoring Donald Trump by less than 1.5 points. Because mail ballots postmarked by Election Day can be accepted if they're received by Nov. 13 in the state, reports currently indicate that results for those still to come will not be reported until they're all in next week. So what's the bottom line? It's possible that we will know the projected winner as early as this evening. However, we will not have final results in every state for some time - as is normal. A little less normal: The potential for multiplying sets of lawsuits as days go by.

After a very late election night, a confident and hopeful Biden addressed the waiting nation about how he views election results like these still being tabulated. "It's clear that we are winning enough states to reach 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency," Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware, with running mate Sen. Kamala Harris by his side. Biden added, "I am not here to declare that we won. But I am here to report, that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners." After his speech, Biden declined to answer how he will respond to the battleground lawsuits currently being filed by the Trump campaign when asked by CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson. But his campaign is preparing for potential legal wars: they arranged a special fundraising site on Wednesday -- called "Biden Fight Fund" -- to garner extra cash to ensure all votes are counted and argue in court for their causes. During a briefing on Wednesday, campaign senior adviser Bob Bauer, the head of the voter protection effort, said if Mr. Trump goes to the high court "he will be in for one of the most embarrassing defeats a president has ever suffered."

President Trump took to Twitter Wednesday to vent about the ongoing vote count, falsely claiming that his lead in Democratic-run states "started to magically disappear as surprise ballot dumps were counted." Sganga reports Twitter flagged the tweets as "misleading," given those votes were cast legally and returned before state deadlines. Mr. Trump continued tweeting this evening saying, "Our lawyers have asked for ;meaningful access', but what good does that do? The damage has already been done to the integrity of our system, and to the Presidential Election itself. This is what should be discussed!" The president's son Eric Trump, Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Former Mayor Rudy Guiliani spoke at a news conference in Philadelphia, Wednesday. The president's youngest son alleged voter fraud in Pennsylvania, though officials have found no evidence. "We're going to win Pennsylvania but they're trying to cheat us out of it because they know it is their only path to victory," the younger Trump said. CBS News has learned Vice President Pence, White House advisor Jared Kushner and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows met at the Trump campaign's headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, on Wednesday to discuss the campaign's path forward.

ON THE $$$

CONGRESSIONAL CASH

These Senate results are a good reminder - money isn't everything. Democrats had high hopes of flipping the Senate and spent record money in their efforts to do so, but with Senate control still in the air, based on the CBS News projections for Republicans so far, losing Democratic Senate campaigns had spent at least $140 million more in nine races through October 14, only to come up short. That's according to the latest pre-general election FEC filings says CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. Those races include some candidates who raised record breaking sums such as Jaime Harrison in South Carolina who outspent Senator Lindsey Graham by roughly $40 million; Theresa Greenfield in Iowa who outspent Senator Joni Ernst by at least $21 million, and Amy McGrath in Kentucky whose campaign outspent Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's by nearly $30 million through October 14. It also includes the Maine Senate race where Democrat Sara Gideon congratulated GOP Senator Susan Collins Wednesday on her win after outspending Collins in the race about two-to-one. Other Democrats who invested more only to come up short include Barbara Bollier in Kansas, Steve Bullock in Montana and MJ Hager in Texas. Additionally, CBS News projected Republican Tommy Tuberville would unseat Democratic Senator Doug Jones, despite being outspent by Jones more than four-to-one. That $140 million more spent on losing races could continue to grow as there are still a number of Senate races which CBS News has not made projections in yet including in North Carolina, Michigan, two races in Georgia, and in Republican leaning Alaska. Meanwhile, there are at least two Senate races where the money may have paid off for Democrats to some extent. In Colorado, CBS News projected John Hickenlooper will unseat Senator Cory Gardner who he outspent him by more than $10 million. And in Arizona, where the race is likely Democrat, Mark Kelly outspent Martha McSally by roughly $30 million. While at the end of the day, it all comes down to who gets the votes, heading into the election, Democrats did warn not to discount spending by outside groups. According to those pre-general election filing, the Senate Leadership Fund which helps Republicans invested more than $240 million this year alone. At the same time, Democrats' Senate Majority PAC reported more than $220 million in disbursements in 2020 as well.

STATE-BY-STATE

ARIZONA

A pro-Trump group says they are planning a protest outside the facility where elections officials are counting ballots in Arizona's most populous county, after "hundreds of voter complaints" over Maricopa County encouraging voters to use Sharpies at the polls, which supporters fear invalidated their ballots, according to CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. Arizona's Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, also sent a letter to county elections staff demanding details over the issue. Officials in the battleground state insist Sharpies were not only allowed but encouraged at polling sites, given they are less likely to smudge on ballots than pens. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, suggested the mix-up likely stemmed from voters merely misunderstanding how their vote was tracked online.

FLORIDA

With 96% of the expected votes in, CBS News has projected President Donald Trump as the winner in FloridaCBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell notes that as of this writing, the president is leading former Vice President Biden by 3 points in the state -- two points more than he won the state by in 2016. Early analyses show that while the president actually lost a county that he'd won in 2016 (Duval County), part of his overall state victory was due to his ability to cut into Biden's margins in Democratic-leaning Miami-Dade County. In 2016, Trump lost the county by 290,000 votes. With 96% of votes in, he's cut his margin of loss down to 84,792 votes. During a press conference Tuesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis praised the work of election officials while seemingly criticizing other states. "Perhaps 2020 was the year that we finally vanquished the ghost of Bush versus Gore," said DeSantis. "As we watch what unfolds in the rest of the country, I do think you're going to continue to hear from people...if the third most populous state in the country can count 11 million votes, produce a result across the board, why can't some of these other states that are much smaller? And that's something that we're going to be watching."

GEORGIA

In a neighboring battleground state, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that Georgia is still counting votes. In a statement Wednesday evening, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said his team was working with the counties to get all of the state's election results counted by Wednesday night or Thursday morning. Raffensperger reported that were approximately 200,000 outstanding absentee ballots to be counted throughout the state. With 94% of the expected votes in, President Trump is leading Biden by a narrow margin of 68,315 votes. Progressive groups on the ground in the state tell Mitchell that they are still hopeful and that it's crucial that every vote is counted.

IOWA

Mr. Trump is projected to win Iowa's 6 electoral votes and incumbent Republican Senator Joni Ernst is also projected to serve another six years in the Senate. In Iowa's first congressional district, Republican challenger Ashley Hinson unseats Democratic incumbent Abby Finkenauer. In 2018, Finkenauer became the second youngest member of Congress, but is now out after serving one term. While Hinson declared victory late last night, CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar reports Finkenauer conceded early this afternoon. Senator Joni Ernst also gave a victory speech in Des Moines last night after getting a concession call from the Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield. The race in the second district for an open seat is still unsettled between Democrat Rita Hart and Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks. In the third district, the Republican challenger David Young conceded to incumbent Democrat Cindy Axne last night. Meanwhile over in the fourth district, a reliably red area, Republican Randy Feenstra easily defeated Democrat J.D. Scholten. That seat is currently held by Rep. Steve King but during the primary, Feenstra defeated King to become the Republican nominee.

MICHIGAN

CBS News projects Biden is the presumptive winner in Michigan. According to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster,President Trump's campaign filed a lawsuit in a Michigan state court on Thursday asking for a judge to "mandate" that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson "order all counting and processing of absentee votes cease immediately until an election inspector from each party is present at each absent voter counting board and mandate that Secretary Benson order the immediate segregation of all ballots that are not being inspected and monitored as required under law." Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said in a statement, " President Trump's campaign has not been provided with meaningful access to numerous counting locations." In a tweet, Benson said, "we are not going to let any campaign, candidate, or political party stop our work to ensure every voice is heard."

NEVADA

Results are continuing to flow in Wednesday from Nevada, after state elections officials initially said they did not plan to release more results until Thursday. Nevada has posted record turnout so far, with nearly 1.2 million votes tallied overnight in the state, reports CBS News campaign reporter Alex Tin. All in-person early votes, Election Day votes, and mail ballots received through November 2nd in the state had already been reported. But an unknown number of mail ballots could still be outstanding in Nevada, given the state mailed ballots to all active voters due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as long as they are received within seven days and are postmarked by Election Day.

NORTH CAROLINA

CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, North Carolina State Board of Elections Director Karen Brinson Bell said that with very few exceptions, North Carolina's election results will not be updated before November 12 -- that's the date that most county boards of elections will hold meetings to review absentee by mail ballots before they're counted. Additionally, Bell told reporters that there are approximately 117,000 absentee by mail ballots that were requested by voters, who the state board does not have a ballot for just yet. In North Carolina, voters had until 5pm on Election Day to get their absentee mail ballots postmarked and sent. As long as a ballot that was properly postmarked and completed is received by November 13, it will be counted. With 95% of the votes in, CBS News shows Mr. Trump leading in the state by 76,000 votes. He won the state by more than double that amount in 2016, garnering 173,315 more votes than Hillary Clinton.

PENNSYLVANIA

As the day after the election comes to a close, Pennsylvania still doesn't have a winner, a scenario we've known to be possible since the state's June primary because of a massive influx of voting by mail ballots, which take much longer to count than in-person ones. "If it's close, I think we're likely to see this phenomenon where what's counted on November 3 is red, and there's considerable uncertainty about what's left to be counted with the likelihood that what's left to be counted is blue," OSU Law School Professor Ed Foley, who coined the term "blue shift," told CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak in June. President Donald Trump led by over 260,000 votes, or 4.4 points late this evening. But over a million ballots are expected to be counted in the coming days. The majority of those uncounted ballots are mail ballots, which, are likely to lean sharply toward Biden since twice as many Democrats as Republicans requested them. Additionally, Pennsylvania will accept mail ballots by mail for three more days so long as they aren't postmarked after Election Day, unless the Supreme Court decides otherwise. The state GOP has already appealed to the high court, and a GOP congressional candidate unsuccessfully asked a federal district to weigh in and appealed to the Third Circuit.

Disputes over Pennsylvania's handling of the election are also playing out in state and federal court. The Trump campaign has appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after a Bucks County judge denied a request for the county not to count mail ballots that it allowed voters to correct. The campaign alleged that the county violated the state Election Code by inspecting the outside of those ballots' envelopes for flaws ahead of Nov. 3. The Trump campaign has appealed the denial of a petition filed Tuesday in Philadelphia to allow poll watchers to more closely observe counting. The Commonwealth Court filing on Wednesday simply gives notice the campaign is appealing. The presiding election day judge in Philly wrote Tuesday that testimony of the campaign's witness, a poll watcher, was that the couldn't observe writing on the outside of ballots. "Given that observers are directed only to observe and not audit ballots, we conclude...that the Board of Elections has complied with the observation requirements," she wrote.

The DNC has filed to intervene in another two lawsuits over flawed mail ballot remedies. In that one, Representative Mike Kelly, a GOP Pennsylvania House candidate, and four other Pennsylvanians have filed a lawsuit in the asking the Commonwealth Court to prevent counties from allowing voters whose mail ballots have been rejected for a defect to cast a provisional ballot in person. The lawsuit argues that the state Supreme Court has already ruled that such a remedy doesn't exist, while the earlier ballot curing lawsuit in Montgomery County's Common Pleas court made a 14th Amendment argument. State election officials issued guidance to counties two weeks ago saying voters who had a mail or absentee ballot rejected can still vote in person with on a provisional ballot, as you would if you'd use if you applied for a mail ballot but didn't use it. Eight counties - Blair, Berks, Carbon, Clinton, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lycoming and Perry - have refused to follow the guidance, the lawsuit says.

WISCONSIN

CBS News projects Biden is the presumptive winner in Wisconsin. According to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster, Biden won one of the states that Democrats have been hoping to reclaim since Mr. Trump won the Badger state in 2016. Biden was helped by absentee ballot returns that favored him and a strong showing in liberal Dane County, home to Madison, where his margin of victory over Mr. Trump was about 35,000 votes greater than Hillary Clinton's win in the county four years ago. The Trump campaign says it is filing for a recount in the state.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE SENATE

The Democrats' chances of flipping the Senate are growing thinner as several of the targeted Republican incumbents won re-election including Senators Susan Collins in Maine, Steve Daines in Montana, and Joni Ernst in Iowa. Democratic Senator Doug Jones lost in Alabama to Republican Tommy Tuberville, which is a Republican pick up. CBS News has projected Governor John Hickenlooper beat Senator Cory Gardner in Colorado which is a Democratic pick up. CBS News political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson says there are still several battleground races that have yet to be called including Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan and the two Georgia Senate races. To win control, the Democrats would have to protect Senator Gary Peters in Michigan and winning three more seats if Biden wins the White House and four more if Mr. Trump is reelected.

IN THE HOUSE

Overall, House Republicans are feeling ecstatic after surpassing expectations last night reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Republicans have flipped at least seven seats held by the moderate Democrat class that gave them the majority in 2018. Democrats are still likely to hold their majority, as Republicans needed to net 17 seats and have only seen a net gain of five so far after Democrats won two redistricted seats in North Carolina. Incumbents like Xochitl Torres Small in New Mexico's 2nd or Colin Peterson in Minnesota's 7th were expected to have tight paths to reelection, but others like Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in Florida's 26th or Donna Shalala in Florida's 27th were surprise losses for the caucus. The latest flip as of Wednesday afternoon is Iowa's 1st, where Republican Ashley Hinson unseated Democrat Abby Finkenauer. Tuesday's performance defies expectations set by House strategists on both sides, after Democrats expanded their offensive battlefield and targeted many Republican incumbents seen as vulnerable. Of the 51 targeted seats by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Democrats are on track to win one so far: Georgia's 7th, where Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux's campaign is confident they can hold onto their lead even if the remaining absentee ballot count goes Republican.

GOVERNOR'S MANSION

POST ELECTION STATE-OF-PLAY

While the nation awaits a final call for the presidency, all 11 gubernatorial races were able to be called by Wednesday morning. Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte's win over Democrat Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney in Montana is the only flip, as Republicans now hold the governor's chair in 27 seats. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper was able to hold on for reelection in North Carolina, as well as was Missouri Republican Governor Mike Parson. In regard to state legislatures, an especially important down ballot category this year with redistricting on the horizon, CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro says Democrats have severely underperformed. Republicans were able to claim victory in heavily targeted chambers by Democrats in Florida, North Carolina and Texas - all states that are expected to add congressional seats. While Democrats could still flip state chambers in Arizona, Republicans have countered any losses by flipping the New Hampshire state legislature. In a call with reporters, Republican State Leadership Committee President Austin Chambers praised Republican candidates for keeping their elections to local issues, while hitting Democrats for trying to nationalize them. "We're batting a thousand. We have won everything we set out to win, we've won in very challenging places," he said, adding that Democratic outside groups "spent over half a billion dollars across the country in these races. And they don't have a damn thing to show for it at this point."

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