The monthslong battle between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden is nearing its conclusion Tuesday night as the first polls close in an election that will shape U.S. economy and the daily financial lives of Americans for the next four years.
The Fox News Decision Desk projects Biden victories in Virginia and Vermont for a total of 16 electoral votes. Meanwhile, Trump is projected to win in Kentucky and West Virginia, both states he was expected to carry, for a total of 13 electoral votes.
Polls have also closed in Georgia and Ohio, though it is too early to project results in the key battleground states. Results are also expected soon in Indiana and South Carolina.
The presidential candidates need to secure at least 270 electoral votes to be declared the winner.
With the U.S. economy and businesses of all sizes under pressure during the coronavirus pandemic, Trump and Biden have shared radically different visions for how America should pursue a long-term recovery. The pair have traded daily barbs on the campaign trail, with each candidate accusing the other of embracing policies that would have disastrous outcomes for the economy.
“This election is a choice between a Biden depression or a Trump super-recovery,” Trump said at a rally last week in Pennsylvania, repeating a frequent claim from the campaign trail. “It’s a choice between a Biden lockdown or a safe vaccine that ends the pandemic.”
Trump stepped up his attacks during the campaign's final days on Biden’s approach to energy, taxes and health care during a series of campaign stops in key battleground states. Biden has hammered the Trump administration on its response to the coronavirus pandemic and pledged to pursue an eight-part plan to restart the economy, funded through higher taxes on the wealthy and large businesses.
Biden has accused Trump of squandering the strong economy he inherited from the Obama administration.
“We inherited the worst regression short of a depression in American history,” Biden said during the first presidential debate in September. “I was asked to bring it back. We were able to have an economic recovery that created the jobs you’re talking about. We handed him a booming economy. He blew it.”
While Biden has emphasized his plan to combat the pandemic, Trump has touted signs of economic recovery since last March. The U.S. gross domestic product grew by 33.1% in the third quarter as the economy bounced back from a nationwide shutdown, unemployment has fallen from pandemic highs and stock indices have rebounded to near-record levels.
He touted the GDP gains late Tuesday in a tweet.
Trump warned at rallies across the country that a Biden victory would cause the stock market to crash and destroy retirement savings for millions of Americans. Biden has pushed back on that criticism, arguing that strong stock market performance under Trump’s watch was due to massive tax breaks for corporate America and had not improved the financial well-being of average citizens.
"I'm not going to shut down the economy," Biden said at a rally in Iowa last Friday. "I'm going to shut down the virus."
In his appeal to voters in the key battleground state of Pennsylvania, Trump claimed that Biden will pursue a fracking ban if elected to office, eliminating thousands of local jobs in the process. Biden has denied that he plans to ban fracking, telling voters that he would halt the issuing of new oil and gas permits on federal land, but leave existing permits untouched and allow fracking on private and state-owned land to proceed.
The president zeroed in on Biden’s remarks during the final presidential debate in October, where the former vice president said he would “transition” from fossil fuels “because the oil industry pollutes significantly.” Biden’s energy plan calls for the U.S. to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
"Biden's energy ban will send every state into crushing poverty," Trump said during a campaign stop this week in Michigan.
Under the Trump administration, the U.S. became the world’s top energy producer. The president has repeatedly touted America’s “energy independence” on the campaign trail.
The two candidates also differ on taxes. The Biden-Harris plan would increase the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and raise taxes for people earning more than $400,000 a year. Biden has also attacked Trump on his personal tax history following a New York Times report that showed he paid just $750 in federal taxes in 2016.
“Why should a nurse pay higher tax rates than the super-wealthy?” Biden said at a rally last Sunday in Minnesota. “Why should you pay more taxes than Donald Trump pays?”
Trump argued that Biden’s plan would raise taxes by $4 trillion and lead to stagnation in the U.S. economy.
Both candidates have pledged to lower prescription drug prices. Biden has vowed to expand affordable coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Trump has accused Biden and other leading Democrats of a push toward “socialized medicine” and argued their plan would cost many Americans their private plans. Biden claimed Trump would look to revoke protections for pre-existing conditions – a charge the president has denied.
Biden said it was “ridiculous” to suggest his plan, dubbed BidenCare, would result in socialized medicine. His health care plan would cost an estimated $750 billion over 10 years.
“The idea that there’s a public option, that people can choose, that makes it a socialist plan? Look, the difference between the president and I, I think health care is not a privilege, it’s a right,” Biden said during the final presidential debate. “Everyone should have the right to have affordable health care.”
Clashes between the two candidates often turned personal in the weeks leading up to the election. The Trump campaign played a montage of Biden “gaffes” during recent rallies.
The president has slammed Biden for supporting NAFTA, which he has described as the worst trade deal in history, while plugging his administration’s successful negotiation of the USMCA trade deal. The Biden campaign has focused on the Trump administration’s trade war with China.
Trump, in turn, has accused Biden of having problematic ties to China through his son, Hunter Biden, who has faced intense scrutiny in recent weeks for his overseas business dealings while his father was vice president.
Nearly 100 million votes were cast through early voting or mail-in ballots prior to Election Day. The surge in early voting activity has prompted concerns that a final result in the election may not be known for days after Nov. 3.
President Trump has argued without evidence that mail-in ballots are susceptible to fraud. Earlier this week, he publicly criticized the Supreme Court’s decision to allow an extended timeline for Pennsylvania and North Carolina to receive and count mail-in ballots, so long as they are postmarked by Election Day.
Control of Congress is also at stake in this year's election. The Democrats already control the House and need a net gain of four seats in the Senate to take control of both chambers.
This story will be updated with election results throughout the night.