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By Byun Duk-kun
WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival Joe Biden were locked in a surprisingly close race a day after the presidential election Wednesday as Biden came from behind to hold razor-thin leads in several battleground states.
As of 10 a.m., Biden was projected to have secured at least 224 electoral votes against Trump's 213. But the former vice president was leading in three of the six key battleground states that were all won by Trump in the 2016 presidential election -- Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The three states, if won by Biden, are expected to put his electoral college votes right at the 270 necessary to win the White House, given that Biden also maintains his currently slim lead in Nevada, according to U.S. cable news network CNN.
With about 86 percent of votes counted in Arizona so far, Biden had 51 percent of the eligible votes, while Trump had 47.6 percent.
Biden was also leading in Michigan with 49.3 percent of the votes, and in Wisconsin with 49.4 percent, marking a turnaround from earlier losses in both states.
The last-minute flip came after Trump declared victory in a White House press conference held only about three hours after all polling closed in what had widely been suspected to become one of the most contentious presidential elections in recent history.
"We were ready to win. Frankly, we did win this election," he said in a White House press conference.
The president was currently winning the three other battleground states -- Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania -- but expected to fall short of the 270-threshold.
His claim of victory was also quickly met by criticism from both Democrats and Republicans
"Stop. Full stop. The votes will be counted and you will either win or lose. And America will accept that. Patience is a virtue," Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Illinois) tweeted.
Biden, speaking at a press conference in Delaware earlier, said it was not up to him or Trump to declare who has won the election.
"It's not my place or Donald Trump's place to declare the winner of this election. It's the voters' place," the former vice president said.
He added he felt good about where he was and that "we just have to be patient."
About 150 million, or 62 percent, of the roughly 240 million eligible American voters were expected to cast their ballots in the election, marking the highest voter turnout since 1908, when the turnout rate stood at 65.7 percent.
A record number of more than 101 million Americans voted early -- over 65 million by mail and more than 35 million in early, in-person voting.
In a final pitch, Biden earlier visited Pennsylvania, canvassing from his hometown of Scranton to Philadelphia.
"I promise you this. Although I am running as a proud Democrat, if you elect me, I am going to be an American president," Biden told a group of supporters gathered on a street of Philadelphia, adding that he will not treat Republican states any different from Democrat states.
Trump said he expected to do better this year than four years ago.
"I think we will top it," Trump said in a telephone interview with U.S. cable network Fox News, referring to the 306 electoral votes he won in 2016.
"I think we have a very solid chance of winning," he added.
Unlike in past elections, however, the winner of Tuesday's presidential election may not be declared for days, if not weeks, partly because of the record number of mail-in votes.
Many states do not allow the counting of mail-in ballots until after the end of the election, while some accept late-arriving mail-in votes that are postmarked by the day of the election.
Some also believe Trump may dispute the results should he find himself losing.
He has repeatedly claimed the only way he is going to "lose this election is if this election is rigged," leaving many suspecting that he may challenge the outcome regardless of the vote tally if he does not win.
The race between Trump and Biden is also being closely watched by many countries, including South Korea, as the stark difference between their views on nearly every issue points to drastic changes in how the U.S. will interact with the rest of the world over the next four years.
Trump has vowed to continue putting "America first" as the world's most powerful nation continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.
The worst pandemic in decades, and possibly in U.S. history, has consumed nearly all campaign efforts, and whoever wins the election will face a daunting task of keeping Americans safe from the novel virus and preventing the economy from falling into a deep recession.
As of Sunday, more than 9.1 million Americans have been infected by the new coronavirus, while more than 234,000 have died from the infectious disease, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Both numbers account for around 20 percent of global tallies, while Americans account for only about 3 percent of the world population.
Biden says he will begin to tackle the pandemic from the very first day of his presidency, if elected, but also notes one of the first things he will do as president is to restore his country's leadership in the international community.
The former vice president accuses Trump of undermining the country's relationship with other countries, especially its traditional allies, with his America First policy.
Also at stake in Tuesday's election are 35 Senate seats, as well as all 435 seats in the House of Representatives.
Trump's Republican Party currently has a majority of Senate seats but is defending 23 of the 35 seats up for grabs.
The Democratic Party needs to take four or more seats, in addition to the 12 seats it is defending, for a Senate majority.
The liberal party currently holds a House majority of 232 seats over 197 held by the conservative party.
The winner of the presidential election will be sworn in on Jan. 20 but may face difficulties for years to come without a majority in either house of Congress.
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