Joe Biden reclaims Michigan for Democrats in close contest

Former Vice President Joe Biden has reclaimed Michigan for Democrats in a crucial battleground victory four years after President Donald Trump became the first Republican to win the state since 1988.

Biden’s victory netted 16 electoral votes that helped push his total to 264 — on the brink of the 270 or more electoral votes needed to win the White House. Michigan was a key to Trump’s surprise election in 2016 after it had been integral to the victories of President Barack Obama and Biden in 2008 and 2012.

The Delaware Democrat led 50% to 48% with 99% of precincts reporting on Wednesday in Michigan as the Republican president’s response to COVID-19 loomed over Election Day. Biden had widened his lead to nearly 120,000 votes — compared with the margin of 10,704 votes by which Trump won the state in 2016.

Biden has already received more than 71 million votes nationwide, the most in history.

“Power can’t be taken or asserted. It flows from the people,” Biden said at about 4 p.m. Wednesday. “It’s their will that determines who will be the president of the United States and their will alone.”

“And now after a long night of counting, it’s clear that we’re winning enough states to reach (the) 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. I am not here to declare that we’ve won. But I am here to report that when the count is finished, we believe we will be the winners.”

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilmington, Del.

Michigan joined Arizona and Wisconsin as Trump states that the former vice president won. After Wisconsin was called mid-afternoon Wednesday for Biden, the Trump campaign asked for a recount. 

Among the key states with unresolved results were Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia. Trump won them all in 2016, but Biden was leading in Nevada and was trailing but competitive in the other three states.

A win by the former U.S. senator in any of the four states would give Biden the presidency.

Biden’s victory occurred as Michigan set a couple of new records — for voter turnout and absentee ballots. More than 5.3 million voters cast ballots, shattering the prior mark of 5.08 million votes cast in 2008 when Obama became America’s first Black president.

But polls found that Republicans, Democrats and independents alike were highly motivated to vote. Former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard, a Democrat who backed Biden early in his campaign, called the victory on Wednesday “great.”

“As president, Joe will be good for Michigan,” Blanchard said. “And we gave him a huge victory in the primary, securing his nomination, and now a big win on the way to the White House.”

The state saw at least 3.26 million absentee ballots cast during a pandemic. The prior high was 1.27 million in the November 2016 presidential election. 

A survey of Michigan voters showed frustration with the direction of the country, a problematic sign for the president.

The Republican incumbent had an advantage in early results after polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday. But Biden took the lead at about 9 a.m. Wednesday and expanded his advantage to more than 61,000 votes as more ballots were counted in urban areas like Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids.

At about noon, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said there were more than 100,000 votes still to be counted across the state.

On Wednesday morning, Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, said the Delaware Democrat was on track to claim Michigan by more than the 10,704 votes that Trump won by four years ago.

“We expect the final results to be today, and we expect that we will win this state,” she said of Michigan.

But Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, said the president “can win and will win” nationally as votes are tallied in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin and Nevada.

“In Michigan, we believe, we know there are outlying Republican counties still left to be counted,” Stepien told reporters on a call. “We are confident in a pathway that includes Michigan.”

The Trump campaign filed a lawsuit in Michigan’s Court of Claims Wednesday afternoon seeking a halt of ballot counting in the state. It followed a similar lawsuit in Pennsylvania and other litigation surrounding which votes would be counted.

At about 4 p.m. Wednesday, Biden noted his lead in Michigan “was growing.”

“Michigan will complete its vote soon, maybe as early as today,” the former vice president said.

Early Wednesday morning, Trump spoke from the White House, claiming he had already won the national election even though millions of votes remained to be counted in battleground states where his leads could be whittled away. Vice President Mike Pence said he believed they were “on the road to victory.”

“We’re winning Michigan,” the president said as he listed states where he was ahead in the early tallies.

A plurality of Michigan voters, 44%, in Tuesday’s election said the most important issue facing the country was the coronavirus pandemic, according to AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of more than 3,400 voters in Michigan conducted for the Associated Press by NORC at the University of Chicago. The margin of error was plus-minus 2 percentage points.

The second most important issue was the economy and jobs at 24%. Health care was at 10% and racism at 6%. Sixty-one percent of Michigan voters said the country is generally headed in the wrong direction, as opposed to 38% who said it’s on the right track, which could signify problems ahead for Trump.

Tuesday’s vote came as Michigan, which reported its first infections on March 10, and other states have experienced surges in new cases of the virus. Michigan reported a record of 20,154 confirmed cases last week. As of Election Day, the state had linked 7,400 deaths to the virus.

The upticks have occurred while the president has maintained that the nation is “rounding the corner” and getting closer to developing a vaccine in its fight against COVID-19.

In regards to the pandemic, 54% of Michigan voters told pollsters that it’s not at all under control, while 46% said it’s at least somewhat under control, according to the AP VoteCast survey. Sixty percent of respondents said the federal government’s higher priority should be limiting the spread of the virus even if it damages the economy.

Minority voters continued to be a strength for Biden in Michigan. The former vice president won 90% of Black voters and 55% of Hispanic voters, while Trump won 52% of white voters to Biden’s 46%, the poll found.

But women appeared to be a key to victory for Biden. Trump won a majority of male voters in Michigan, 52% to 44%, while Biden won more women, 59% to 40%, according to the AP VoteCast survey.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Trump several times complained while campaigning in Michigan that he wasn’t doing well with “suburban women.”

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Associated Press and Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed.