Democrat Joe Biden said early Wednesday he believes he is "on track" to defeating US President Donald Trump, and called for US citizens to have patience with vote-counting as several swing states remain up in the air.
"We believe we are on track to win this election," Biden told supporters in nationally broadcast remarks delivered in his home city of Wilmington, Delaware, adding: "It ain't over until every vote is counted."
The 77-year-old former vice-president also said he was "confident" about the state of Arizona, a battleground that Trump won in 2016 but which Biden was substantially leading in with about 77 percent of ballots counted.
"Keep the faith guys, we're going to win this," he concluded.
Biden addressed a collection of more than 200 cars as he was joined onstage by his wife Jill Biden. Moments beforehand, US media projected that Trump had prevailed in Florida, a state crucial to his hopes as well as the hotly contested Rust Belt state of Ohio – which he seized in 2016 from Hillary Clinton. Fox News and NBC News both called the Midwestern state for the incumbent.
No Republican has won the presidency without also winning Ohio, which Trump won by more than eight percentage points four years ago. The state accounts for 18 Electoral College votes.
Several battleground states that were expected to decide the election winner were still up in the air, including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
At the time of writing, based on projections from US networks, Biden had amassed 209 electoral votes with his statewide wins, while Trump had 138. The magic number is 270.
Observers expect the hotly contested race for the White House to come down to a handful of key battleground states that have yet to be called by two networks.
Supporters of Biden were nervous as they gathered to hear him speak. Shortly before his speech, a trickle of cars started to arrive for a socially distanced drive-in in the parking lot of the Chase Center in the Democrat's hometown.
With early projected results inconclusive, arrivals in the parking lot were slow. When people did arrive, they stood around anxiously watching results come in on giant screens.
Among the first to get there was 37-year-old Rossana Arteaga-Lorenza, who came with her young son. She had Biden-Harris stickers on her car and US flags hanging out of the window.
"I'm excited to be here," she told AFP, through the window of the driver's seat.
"If Joe Biden becomes president, I will be extremely happy. We are hopeful for a better future for our country."
Drive-in rallies were a feature of the 77-year-old Biden's campaign due to the coronavirus pandemic. Red, white and blue traffic cones with "Biden-Harris" emblazoned on them kept the vehicles six feet apart.
Biden supporter Thomas Hansen, 32, said he was cautiously optimistic about the night ahead.
"I'm hesitant to get excited about it, but I think it's going well, especially by the number of people who voted early," he told AFP.
Hansen said he was tired of the drama surrounding Trump's presidency and wanted some "normalcy."
"I think it should be boring most of the time in the White House," he added. "If it isn't, then you're kind of doing something wrong."
With early results suggesting a close race, it promised to be a long night. Hansen's sister, Virginia Hansen, said she feared it could be days before a winner is confirmed.
"I'm withholding any hope for now," said the 30-year-old.
Biden had started the day by visiting St. Joseph on the Brandywine, a Catholic church in his affluent Wilmington neighbourhood.
He stopped at the cemetery where his first wife and daughter – and his son Beau – are buried.
Biden then visited his childhood home in the industrial town of Scranton in Pennsylvania, signing his name on the living room wall for good luck.
"From this House to the White House with the Grace of God," Biden wrote, adding his name and the date: "11-3-2020."
He stopped in Philadelphia before heading home to Wilmington, where he watched the results before his speech.