U.S. President-elect Joe Biden declares a “clear victory” and calls for unity in speech

Biden thanked Black voters in particular for their longtime support

Grace Segers – CBS NEWS

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris projected optimism and called for unity in dual speeches on Saturday night, signaling a significant change in tone from the grievance politics of the Trump era. This was the first time the two spoke in public since they were projected to win the presidential election

“The people of this nation have spoken. They have delivered us a clear victory, a convincing victory, a victory for ‘we the people.’ We won with the most votes ever cast in the history of our nation,” Biden said, referring to the more than 74 million votes he had earned as of Saturday evening.

CBS News projected this morning that Biden will win the state of Pennsylvania, bringing him to 273 electoral votes — just over the 270 threshold needed. A few hours later, CBS News also projected a Biden win in Nevada, boosting his electoral vote total to 279.

Biden struck a familiar chord in his speech, calling for unity and implicitly rebuking the president for his divisive politics.

“I sought this office to restore the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, to make America respected around the world again, and to unite us here at home,” Biden said.

Biden thanked his supporters, boasting that he had earned votes from the “broadest and most diverse coalition in American history.” He thanked Black voters in particular for their longtime support.

“You’ve always had my back. And I’ll have yours,” Biden told Black voters. He also reached out to Trump voters, saying that he would act as their president as much as he would for those who voted for him.

“I understand your disappointment tonight. I’ve lost a couple times myself. But now, let’s give each other a chance,” Biden said. “This is the time to heal in America.”

Biden condemned the president without naming him, saying that he wanted to end “this grim era of demonization in America here and now.” He also appealed to Republicans in Congress, urging them to work with his incoming administration, saying that Americans had given Biden and Congress a “mandate” to “cooperate in their interest.”

“This is the United States of America, and there has never been anything we’ve not been able to do when we’ve done it together,” Biden said. He ended his speech by urging supporters to “spread the faith,” proclaiming a hopeful message for the next four years.

The election of Biden and Harris is historic in more than one way. Biden will be the oldest president to take office and only the second Catholic. Harris will be the first woman and the first Black American and Asian American to serve as vice president. Biden thanked Harris in his speech and acknowledged the significance of her election.

“Don’t tell me it’s not possible in the United States! It’s long overdue,” Biden said of Harris becoming the first Black woman vice president.

Biden was introduced by Harris, who spoke before him. She was dressed entirely in white, a color traditionally worn by women honoring the suffragette movement. She took the stage to cheers and honking from attendees at the drive-in rally. She began her speech by honoring the late Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon whose home state, Georgia, appears to be leaning to Biden.

“Democracy is not a state. It is an act,” Harris said, quoting Lewis. She continued in her own words: “Protecting our democracy takes struggle, it takes sacrifice. But there is joy in it, and there is progress. Because we the people have the power to build a better future.”

Harris thanked supporters for their activism throughout the four years of the Trump presidency, and for turning out to vote, by absentee ballot or in person.

“You delivered a clear message. You chose hope and unity, decency, science, and yes, truth,” Harris said. “You chose Joe Biden as the next president of the United States of America.”

Harris reflected on the legacy of her mother, who emigrated from India, and the hard work of generations of women to achieve equal rights.

“I am thinking about her, and about the generations of women — Black women, Asian, White, Latina, Native American women — who throughout our nation’s history have paved the way for this moment tonight,” Harris said. “I stand on their shoulders.”

Harris also looked to the future, and the next generation of women leaders.

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last,” Harris said. “Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.”

She spoke about the priorities for the new administration, such as responding to the coronavirus pandemic, addressing climate change and working towards racial justice.

“The road ahead will not be easy, but America is ready, and so are Joe and I,” Harris said. Biden also announced that he would establish an advisory panel of public health experts to provide guidance on how he should respond to the pandemic.

President Trump has not conceded the race, and said in a statement the election was “far from over.” His campaign has launched lawsuits in several states in an attempt to delay the counting of votes it considers to be disputed, but this litigation has thus far been unsuccessful. The president spent part of his Saturday golfing at his club in Virginia.

Biden’s path to victory led through three states Mr. Trump narrowly won in 2016: PennsylvaniaMichigan and Wisconsin. Biden also holds a razor-thin lead in Georgia, which is headed for a recount. Mr. Trump captured several large battleground states that Biden had hoped to be competitive in, including Florida, Ohio and Texas.

At 78, Biden will be the oldest man to ever occupy the Oval Office. On November 3, Biden was the same age — 77 years, 11 months, 14 days — as Ronald Reagan was the day he left office. 

CBS News’ projection that Biden has won the presidency comes 48 years — to the day — after he first won election to the Senate on November 7, 1972. Biden was just 29 years old when he won his seat in Delaware, and would serve for 36 years before becoming vice president in the Obama administration.

Stefan Becket and Bo Erickson contributed to this report.