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Pelosi: 'President-Elect Biden' Will Have Mandate To Lead

WASHINGTON (CBS SF/AP) -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was looking ahead to a Joe Biden presidency Friday after vote counts in the key states of Pennsylvania and Georgia showed the former vice-president now ahead of President Trump.

During her weekly press conference Friday morning, Pelosi referred to Biden as "President-elect Biden," saying he "has a strong mandate to lead, and will have a strong Democratic House with him."

"His election is historic, propelled by the biggest vote ever in the history of our country, 73.8 million, and counting, Americans - the most votes ever received by any presidential ticket in history," said Pelosi.

Speaker Pelosi Holds Weekly News Conference On Capitol Hill
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) talks to reporters during her weekly news conference in the House Visitors Center at the U.S. Capitol on November 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

While Democrats' expectations of a "blue wave" came crashing back to earth with Trump wins in key states of Florida, Texas and Ohio, along with losses that shrunk their House majority, Pelosi sought to frame the results in a bigger picture.

"This has been a life-or-death fight for the fate of our democracy," said Pelosi. "We did not win every battle in the House, but we won the war."

As of Friday morning, Biden was on the verge of the presidency with slim but growing leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia along with leads in Nevada and Arizona. The races were still too close to call, and the Trump campaign is alleging, without evidence, fraud in vote counts happening in contested states.

Trump's campaign and Republicans were mounting legal challenges in several states, although most are small-scale lawsuits that do not appear to affect many votes.

On Thursday, President Trump launched into a litany of claims, without proof, about how Democrats were trying to unfairly deprive him of a second term. "But we think there'll be a lot of litigation because we can't have an election stolen like this," Trump said, suggesting that the Supreme Court might eventually decide the election.

Biden, for his part, has said he expects to win the election, but he counseled patience Thursday, saying: "Each ballot must be counted."

In the Senate, where Democrats also had notions of regaining the majority, the control still hangs in the balance as Republicans fought off Democratic challengers in crucial states but failed to lock down the seats needed to retain their tenuous majority. Democrats received a boost Friday with word that Democrat Mark Kelly has won in Arizona, flipping the seat from incumbent Republican Martha McSally.

Meanwhile, Democrats are coming to grips with the fact that whether or not Biden is elected, they still have a problem understanding and winning over Trump voters.

Pelosi, who easily won re-election in California's 12th District, is also seeking reelection as Speaker of the House, sending a personalized letter to each Democratic member asking for their support.

In her letter, Pelosi said she wanted to "harness the extraordinary vision, values and vibrancy of our Caucus to secure the progress that the American people deserve."

"In that spirit, I am writing to request your support to be re-elected as Speaker. I do so with the utmost respect for the diverse viewpoints of our Democratic Caucus, the gravity of this role and the urgency of the challenges ahead," Pelosi said.

Pelosi's appeal comes after House lawmakers unloaded during a caucus call Thursday — Democratic freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger, in a so-tight race in Virginia, spoke with "passion" about the party's campaign failures, according to a person familiar with the private call and granted anonymity to discuss it.

The marathon call ran three hours, with some 30 members adding their views.

No one spoke against Pelosi, who tried to remind them, they did, in fact, win: Biden is on the verge of replacing Trump, and House Democrats are on track to keep their majority, according to another person familiar with the call and granted anonymity to discuss it.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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