President Donald Trump's hopes of clinging on to the White House faded on Saturday after Joe Biden was projected to win the election, as allies retreated and as his claims of vote-rigging were failing to gain traction.
Crowds chanted and celebrated in raucous scenes outside the White House to mark the victory of Mr Biden, a Democrat, as Mr Trump appeared determined to continue disputing the results of the November 3 election.
Minutes before Mr Biden was declared the winner, Mr Trump, a Republican, was using Twitter to once again claim that he had prevailed and was being cheated out of a second four-year term in the Oval Office.
"I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!" wrote Mr Trump, writing in the capital letters that have become a hallmark of his presidency.
Mr Biden’s projected win was called on Saturday after the Democrat prevailed in the battleground state of Pennsylvania — winning him 20 electoral college votes and pushing him above the threshold needed to claim the White House. He was set to address the nation at 8pm.
Mr Trump's options for challenging that claim looked likely to hinge on the legal suits of voting irregularities his lawyers have already filed and by appealing to the millions of voters who backed him in Tuesday's election.
"What a total mess this "election" has been!" Mr Trump said in other Twitter messages to his 88.6 million followers on Saturday morning.
"Tens of thousands of votes were illegally received after 8pm on Tuesday, Election Day, totally and easily changing the results in Pennsylvania and certain other razor thin states."
The president and his allies have repeatedly and falsely claimed that the ongoing count of eligible ballots is a sign of fraud and have filed legal cases across key battleground states, winning only one small victory while others cases were dismissed.
Meanwhile, legal scholars have cast doubt on Mr Trump's appeal to the Supreme Court, where he has appointed three conservative judges, saying it would not immediately be able to take up the low-level cases the president's lawyers have filed.
Mr Trump’s options grew fader still as more Republicans appeared to distance themselves from the president, and as leaders from overseas nations — including long-standing US allies — congratulated Mr Biden on his victory.
Jeb Bush, who lost to Mr Trump in a bitter 2016 Republican primary campaign, said he was “praying” for Mr Biden, who he said could “lead the way” to “heal deep wounds” in a nation that is more divided than at any time in living memory.
Other prominent Republicans, including John Bolton, the president’s former National Security Adviser, Adam Kinzinger, a Republican congressman from Illinois, and Texan politician Will Hurd have also distanced themselves from the president.
Support for Mr Biden came in from German chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, who said he was "really looking forward to working" with the Biden administration.
In recent days, Mr Trump's long-standing media allies Fox News and The New York Post have also distanced themselves from the 45th president's unfounded claims of voting fraud. Both outlets posted stories about Mr Biden being declared the winner on Saturday.
Mr Trump's best chance of success may likely come down to the millions of American voters who secured him the presidency in 2016 and defied the predictions of pollsters again by turning out in large numbers again this week.
While Mr Trump was on track to lose the popular vote, an impressive tally of 70.6 million votes had been counted in his favour by Saturday, meaning the election was far from the wholesale denunciation of Trumpism that many liberals had hoped for.
Hundreds of hardcore Trump supporters have rallied outside vote-counting stations in Michigan, Arizona, Pennsylvania and other battleground states, echoing the president's complaint of irregularities and demanding to monitor the process inside.
A pro-Trump Facebook group called Stop the Steal was created on Wednesday and quickly amassed hundreds of thousands of followers, who shared posts about voting fraud. It was shut down by the tech giant's administrators after 22 hours.
Mr Trump can likely count on these supporters to stick with him and continue to rally in support of his legal challenges.
Others have already begun speculating on what Mr Trump would do once he vacates the White House, which he would be expected to do in January to make way for an incoming Biden administration.
A post-presidency Mr Trump could do anything from becoming a television host to running for the presidency again in 2024. Others point to prosecutions and tax-fraud probes he may encounter once his executive privileges are withdrawn.
"Trump's lame-duck period could be more tumultuous than ever," Ian Bremmer, a commentator and founder of a political risk consultancy, the Eurasia Group, said on Twitter.
“Facing legal troubles, Trump could opt to self-pardon, a move with no precedent in American history.”