The so-called blue wall states — Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — were long expected to play a pivotal role in the 2020 election, and that is indeed coming to pass.
By midday on Wednesday, Joseph R. Biden Jr. held narrow leads in Michigan and Wisconsin. In Pennsylvania, President Trump had an edge, but large numbers of early votes and results from Democratic strongholds like Philadelphia were still being processed.
In all three states, the outcomes will say a lot about whether Mr. Trump indeed has a chance to make up the ground he appears to have lost with swing voters since 2016.
Here is a look at where things stand as the counting continues and each state remains too close to call.
Perhaps no state is staring down a longer counting period than Pennsylvania. As of midday Wednesday, 5.7 million votes had been counted in Pennsylvania, which represented roughly 80 percent of the estimated vote total in the state.
They got a late start. The state legislature refused to allow election officials to begin processing absentee ballots until 7 a.m. on Election Day, and officials across the state were laboring through the tedious process of counting ballots.
In Philadelphia, only 76,000 absentee ballots out of more than 350,000 were processed in the first 14 hours that officials were allowed to count ballots. Though Philadelphia election officials were working around the clock on the absentee ballots, the pace indicated that the count could last into Thursday.
Other major counties, like Chester, Montgomery and Delaware, suburban counties outside of Philadelphia and a growing source of strength for Democrats, also had not reported the majority of their mail-in ballots. Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh and another Democratic base of support, still had a large share of ballots to count.
Senator Bob Casey Jr., a Democrat, said, “I’m confident Joe Biden will carry the state because of the margins we’ll get in those counties.”
Though Mr. Trump had a roughly 470,000-vote advantage in Pennsylvania, Democrats in the state were confident that they could make up the margins with votes from Philadelphia and the “collar counties” surrounding it still to be counted.
The delays in results in Pennsylvania, however, might extend beyond the simple challenge of counting the outstanding ballots. Republicans filed multiple lawsuits in the state on Tuesday, including one regarding provisional ballots for voters who had their absentee ballots rejected.
Early Wednesday, national Democrats filed a motion intervening in Montgomery County. Hearings were scheduled in both state and federal court on Republican lawsuits, and lawyers on both sides were anticipating further litigation in Pennsylvania.
Early returns had been inconclusive on Tuesday evening, with the key population center of Milwaukee yet to report vote tallies. But early Wednesday, a large vote count from that city was announced, and Mr. Biden edged ahead of Mr. Trump based on roughly 97 percent of estimated votes statewide.
There are several reasons Democrats remain confident in Wisconsin. The state saw increased turnout in Madison, reaching more than 80 percent, according to election officials. In Milwaukee, another of the state’s liberal strongholds, turnout seemed better than four years ago but not at the same high levels as in other major cities in battleground states from Arizona to North Carolina.
Mr. Biden built a political campaign focused on Midwestern voters, aimed at clawing back many of the ideological moderates who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016. For all the talk about winning states like Florida, Iowa or Texas, Democrats in Wisconsin say the campaign will be decided as it began — with Mr. Biden betting his political future on the region of the country that he is most associated with.
Senator Tammy Baldwin, the Democrat who won in 2018 by energizing her party’s constituencies while limiting losses in the suburbs and rural regions, said in an interview on Election Day that she believed Mr. Biden would be successful.
“They figured out a way to be here virtually, even if they weren’t here in person,” she said. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons about how we conducted 2016, from the party all the way on down.”
But Mr. Trump was not willing to concede defeat. And his campaign said on Wednesday that it would ask for a recount in the state, which it is allowed to do if the numbers remain so close.
Mr. Biden took a slim lead in the state early Wednesday, as some of the state’s major population centers began reporting the large numbers of ballots that were cast early and unaccounted for late Tuesday. And while Mr. Trump’s campaign insists it still has a path to victory, Democrats expect that the votes remaining to be counted will skew toward Mr. Biden and tip the state to him.
Polls taken before the election had shown the former vice president considerably ahead, outside the margin of error.
An earlier edge for Mr. Trump reflected his advantage in the Election Day vote — not the early vote, which was a larger share of the overall ballots cast in the state and favored Mr. Biden.
In Detroit, the city clerk had counted only about half of what was expected. The clerk’s office reported having about 240,000 votes tallied as of midday Wednesday.
For comparison purposes, Detroiters cast 248,000 ballots in 2016, when turnout was low. This year, election officials have said they expect turnout to easily surpass that, potentially exceeding 2008 and 2012, when President Barack Obama was on the ballot.
Mr. Biden is expected to easily get 90 percent of the vote in Detroit.
In Michigan’s bellwether Macomb County, which voted twice for Mr. Obama and then for Mr. Trump in 2016, the president was ahead with most of the ballots counted, but not by as much as he was four years ago when he carried it by more than 11 percentage points. Once Macomb counted its early and Election Day ballots, Mr. Biden was able to close a considerable gap, as he had in many counties throughout the day as the same-day ballots were counted first.
And in Oakland County, the state’s second-largest, what began as a significant lead for Mr. Trump on Tuesday evening vanished into an advantage for Mr. Biden by Wednesday as more and more precincts reported their early votes.
Democrats have won Oakland County in every recent presidential election. Hillary Clinton carried it by eight points in 2016, and Mr. Biden was on track to exceed that margin of victory significantly.