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Thursday evening update: Where the presidential race stands

Joe Biden is drawing closer in both Pennsylvania and Georgia.

A poll worker sorts ballots inside the Maricopa County Election Department in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5.
Olivier Touron/AFP via Getty Images

The presidential race still hasn’t been called, but as more votes are counted, former Vice President Joe Biden’s chances keep looking better.

The five key states remaining — Pennsylvania, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina — remain uncalled as of midnight Eastern time. But Biden looks set to take the lead in the only state he needs to win, Pennsylvania. He also seems likely to take a very narrow lead in Georgia, where Trump has led the count since election night, in what would be a clear blow to Trump’s hopes.

Decision Desk

In the most important of these states, Pennsylvania, President Trump’s lead has continued to dwindle, and it appears to be only a matter of time before Biden passes him as more of the hundreds of thousands of remaining mail ballots are counted.

The initial count in Pennsylvania showed Trump ahead because the state has been slow to count its mail ballots. Democrats were much more likely to vote by mail, and Republicans were much more likely to vote in-person on Election Day, and those latter votes were counted first. It was expected that Biden would gain as mail votes were counted, and that’s exactly what has happened.

As of midnight Eastern time, Trump’s Pennsylvania lead had shrunk to just a 0.37 percent margin — about 24,000 votes. And since the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia has many more ballots to count, that lead is highly likely to vanish.

A call for Biden in Pennsylvania would put him over the 270 electoral votes necessary to win, making him the presumptive next president of the United States. He wouldn’t need to win any other state.

Biden is also drawing closer in Georgia

The good news for Biden doesn’t stop with Pennsylvania. A similar story is playing out in Georgia, where Trump led in the election night count, but his lead has steadily dwindled since then.

As of midnight Eastern time, Trump leads Georgia, by just a 0.04 percent margin — a mere 1,709 votes, according to Decision Desk. And there are thousands more ballots left to count in the heavily Democratic Clayton County.

Don’t expect Georgia to be called anytime soon, though. That’s quite a close margin, and Georgia doesn’t have many ballots left to count — there probably aren’t enough votes remaining to give Biden a sizable lead. A recount is entirely possible.

But Trump’s slipping lead in this traditionally Republican state is likely a blow to his hopes of victory — and, perhaps, to any hopes that he could change the outcome via legal shenanigans. As Vox’s Ian Milhiser writes, it’s conceivable that a lawsuit or recount battle could overturn a close outcome in one state — but the more key states Trump trails in, the less plausible it gets.

Trump improved his position in Arizona — but perhaps not by enough

Nevada hasn’t updated its count since midday, and North Carolina has not reported anything new, so the other news of the day was in Arizona. (Fox News and the Associated Press have already called Arizona for Biden, but other election-calling outfits, like Vox’s partner Decision Desk, have been more cautious.)

The Arizona news was somewhat better for Trump — his position in the count at least improved rather than worsened, with Biden’s lead dropping to a 1.5 percent margin.

Still, it’s not clear that this rate of improvement will be enough for Trump to make up the ground he needs to take the lead in the state. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver opined that the latest drop of votes from Maricopa County, the biggest county in the state, was “a bit behind the pace” Trump needs.

Hundreds of thousands of ballots (it’s not clear exactly how many) remain to be counted in Arizona, so Trump’s chances can’t be ruled out just yet. But again, Biden doesn’t even need Arizona to win, so long as he takes the lead in Pennsylvania. And even if Biden falls short in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Nevada would be enough to put him over the top if he maintains his leads there.

Overall, Biden’s prospects of winning the presidency improved Thursday — and it’s possible that election-calling outlets could declare him the winner within the next day, or even within hours.