Joe Biden’s supporters turned up hoping for a victory party. They left none the wiser as Biden told them he was confident of defeating Donald Trump — but urged patience, with the nail-biting contest hanging in the balance.
Several hundred Democrats gathered for a drive-in rally at Biden’s campaign headquarters in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware for a socially-distanced, election night event like no other.
Hopes of an early White House win for the 77-year-old Biden were soon dashed as TV networks — beamed onto giant screens — projected victories for the Republican incumbent in several states including the big prize of Florida.
But there were cheers and blowing of horns when MSNBC called Virginia for Biden just after midnight, and more whooping and honking half an hour later when it announced Biden was leading Trump in Minnesota.
As Biden’s motorcade arrived, shortly after 12:30 am, car horns sounded frantically.
“We knew this was gonna go long," the former vice president told the crowd, after he took to the outdoor stage while holding the hand of his wife Jill.
“But look we feel good about where we are. We really do. I’m here to tell you tonight we believe we’re on track to win this election."
Moments later, Trump shot back by predicting his own victory and accusing his opponent of trying to “steal" the vote.
‘Keep the faith’
Biden was on stage for just a few minutes in a decidedly low-key affair that echoed many of his campaign events. His running mate Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff did not appear as scheduled.
“We knew because of the mail-in voting this would take longer than usual," said Biden.
“It ain’t over until every ballot is counted. Every vote is counted.
“Keep the faith guys. We’re gonna win this. Your patience is great," he added, to more cheers and honking.
As soon as Biden was gone, his supporters started to make their way home, hopeful but unsure about how the night and subsequent days would pan out.
“His comments were perfect, he made sure that we stayed hopeful," Kerri Evelyn Harris, 40, told AFP.
“It was very uplifting, very hopeful. I’m looking forward to the next couple of days when the wins come in," said 60-year-old Gary Duren.
But others were more cautious, fearing it could be days before a winner is confirmed.
“I’m hesitant to get excited about it, but I think it’s going well, especially by the number of people who voted early," said Thomas Hansen, 32.
His sister, Virginia Hansen, said she did not dare to yet dream of a Biden win, fearing disappointment.
“I’m withholding any hope for now," said the 30-year-old.