Is victory slipping away from President Trump? (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

US election on a knife edge

The US is holding its breath today as Democratic contender Joe Biden closes in on Donald Trump in key battleground states amid moves by the President to launch legal challenges to vote counts.

With Biden claiming the crucial “rust belt” states of Michigan this morning Australian time and Wisconsin overnight, the Democrats are just 17 Electoral College votes away from the 270 votes that spell victory.

But the Trump campaign has demanded a recount in tightly contested Wisconsin, and has filed lawsuits to halt the counting of votes in Michigan, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

Trump baselessly labelled the election “a fraud on the American nation” last night, and claimed the Republicans had already won.

His lawyer, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, claimed there had been “anti-democratic” actions in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvanian capital, and “all over the country”.

In the early stages of the count yesterday, Trump appeared to be defying the polls, with a strong showing in many states and an important win in electoral vote-rich Florida.

However, as postal and early votes began to be counted, the tide slowly shifted to the Democrats, who gained a substantial lead in Arizona and increasingly made headway in the post-industrial heartland states of the northern mid-west.

Speaking this morning, Biden appealed for unity. “I’m confident we’ll emerge victorious,” he said.

“But this will not be my victory alone or our victory alone. It’ll be a victory for the American people, for our democracy, for America.

“And there will be no blue states and red states when we win, just the United States of America.”

Most pundits have the current Electoral College standings as Biden on 253 votes and Trump on 213.

Attention is on the close races in Nevada, where six votes are up for grabs, Georgia, which could deliver either candidate 16 votes, and Pennsylvania, where 20 votes are at stake.

In an election notable for the biggest voter turn-out in a century, Trump won the key battleground states of Ohio and Iowa, as well as Florida.

In his post-midnight appearance from the White House, he claimed:  “Frankly, we did win this election. We want all voting to stop. We don’t want them to find any ballots at four in the morning and add them to the list.’

The election has also been noteworthy for the vast amounts of misinformation and disinformation spread on social media.

Twitter censored three tweets by Trump over the space of just a few hours.