By Brad Heath
Nov 4 (Reuters) – President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden on Wednesday each faced narrow paths to potential victory in a close-fought U.S. presidential election that will be determined by a razor-thin margin.
Five battleground states remain to be called — Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania — with Biden needing to carry at least two to win, while Trump would need at least four. (No winner had been projected in Alaska on Wednesday afternoon, either.)
The outcome is almost certain to come down to millions of absentee ballots that were the first cast in this election and often are the last to be counted.
At 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT), Biden held narrow leads in Michigan and Nevada. Trump held leads in Georgia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, though tens of thousands of ballots remain to be counted in those states, many of them votes cast by mail in the areas around major cities, which traditionally favor Democrats.
Here are Trump’s and Biden’s paths to victory:
Trump’s most likely road to victory goes through Pennsylvania, a state he carried in 2016. If he wins there, he will have to win three of the other battleground states to secure 270 electoral votes. If he doesn’t win Pennsylvania, he’ll have to sweep Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina and Nevada.
Trump led the voting in Pennsylvania about 53% to 46% with about 82% of the votes likely counted.
The state’s biggest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have reported a smaller share of their election results so far, and those results traditionally favor Democrats. Beyond that, many of the ballots that remain to be counted were filed by mail, and the state has said many more Democrats than Republicans cast mail-in ballots this year.
Pennsylvania offers one other wrinkle: Its state courts have ordered officials to count absentee ballots that were cast by Tuesday so long as they arrive in the mail by Friday. (Trump has criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for permitting the change and the case could return to the court after the election.)
Biden’s most likely road to victory goes through Michigan, where he held a narrow lead Wednesday as officials worked to tally the final votes. If Biden wins there, a victory in any of the remaining states would give him enough to win.
Biden held a lead of about 37,000 in Michigan, and many of the votes remaining to be counted there were mail-in ballots from metropolitan Detroit, where Democrats have historically enjoyed an electoral advantage.
Wisconsin officials said Biden was ahead by about 20,000 votes when they concluded their unofficial count on Wednesday. Trump’s campaign said it would seek a recount there.
Officials in Nevada, where Biden had a razor-thin 49.3%-48.7% lead with 86% of expected votes counted, said they would not resume counting ballots until Thursday morning.
(Reporting by Brad Heath in Washington; Editing by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman and Daniel Wallis)