As the counting of votes continues toward its end Thursday, five critical states remain up for grabs that will ultimately decide who occupies the White House next year.
Bizarrely, the state of Alaska remains uncalled by most media outlets, although President Donald Trump is overwhelmingly favored to win that state. The last five meaningfully contested races are North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Nevada. President Trump needs to win at least four out of five of these states in order to secure re-election.
As the race currently stands, most observers believe that Trump's narrow lead in North Carolina is likely secure. Additionally, although a small number of votes remain to be counted in Georgia, it looks highly likely that President Trump's lead, which currently sits at about 19,000 votes, will hold up.
The contest therefore looks like it comes down to Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Nevada. President Trump must win both Pennsylvania AND either Nevada or Arizona in order to win re-election.
Right now, Trump maintains a lead of about 160,000 votes in Pennsylvania, but that lead is dwindling as Pennsylvania continues the ponderous task of counting through early and mail-in ballots, which the state did not begin counting until after the polls were closed. The latest estimates indicate that there are only about 460,000 votes remaining to be counted, which means that former Vice President Joe Biden would have to win the remaining votes by better than a 2-to-1 margin to carry the state. Most observers expect Pennsylvania to finish counting at some point today.
Trump currently trails in both Arizona and Nevada by small margins. Biden's lead in Arizona has dwindled to about 70,000 votes. Arizona is not expected to release the next large batch of votes from Maricopa County until 9 p.m. ET today, which means that we might not know the result of this election until much later on Thursday night, if not later.
Trump also currently trails by a narrow margin in Nevada, which is expected to report additional results today. Biden's current lead in Nevada is less than 8,000 votes; however, it is widely assumed that the bulk of the outstanding vote in Nevada is from Clark County, which expected to break toward Biden.
After the counting is finished, it seems likely that legal challenges will continue for some days to come, but American voters can have a reasonable hope that today, after a long 48 hours, America will know the winner of the presidential election according to the first count of ballots.