The electoral will of the American people was gradually coming into focus Friday in Georgia and Pennsylvania, two critical battleground states that were poised to seal the fate of U.S. President Donald Trump.
In Georgia, a state where only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have disturbed a half-century of Republican dominance, Trump's paper-thin lead disappeared overnight beneath a tide of mail-in votes for Democrat nominee Joe Biden.
And in Pennsylvania, Biden gradually erased what had been a 600,000-vote lead for Trump on election night, moving into the lead by about 5,000 votes as commuters in Philadelphia contended with the morning rush hour.
Downtown, supporters on both sides of the political divide spent Thursday holding court outside the convention centre where efforts to count the remaining ballots were in a third straight day.
The reality seemed clear when the president spoke Thursday in the White House briefing room, vowing court battles and lashing out at the pillars of American democracy in a display of indignance that was especially unhinged and bitter, even for him.
"It's a corrupt system," he fumed, referring to the mail-in voting system that allowed tens of millions of voters to cast a ballot without risking their health in the midst of a deadly pandemic.
"They want to find out how many votes they need, and then they seem to be able to find them. They wait and wait, and then they find them."
Pennsylvania is worth 20 electoral college votes and Georgia worth 16. All of them are must-haves for Trump, who is well back of Biden in the race to reach the 270 needed to claim the presidency.
Outside the convention centre, supporters of both campaigns spent Thursday taunting each other from a distance, one side calling for all the votes to be counted, the others demanding that it be stopped.
In Arizona, however — where the president is lagging behind Biden, but has a reasonable chance to catch him and claim 11 electoral votes — the Trump forces are happy to let the counting continue.
With his path back to the Oval Office narrowing by the hour, Trump has been mobilizing supporters and lawyers alike in the remaining battleground states, including in Pennsylvania, in a last-ditch attempt to keep his hopes alive.
Backers on hand Thursday in Philadelphia remained convinced he would win — and that something crooked was afoot if he didn't.
"I'm a positive man, myself, but to be honest with you, I think it's going to get very intense" once a winner is declared, said Christopher Wright, who drove down from Brooklyn, N.Y., to attend Thursday's protest.
Not because Trump supporters would rise up against a Biden win, he said, but because of precisely the opposite.
"People on the left are like, 'It's over, Trump hasn't won, it's in the bag,'" Wright said.
"But there's a good chance that President Trump is still going to win Arizona, and if he wins Arizona, the whole map has changed just like that."
Trump's campaign has been blanketing the outstanding states as well as Wisconsin and Michigan with a flurry of legal challenges, most of them with little chance to gain traction.
The Associated Press says Biden currently holds 264 electoral college votes, although several other major media outlets have yet to call Arizona. Nevada, too, where Biden was leading by about 11,000 votes, remained up in the air, while Trump had a lead of about 65,000 votes in North Carolina.
Both campaigns, meanwhile, have moved their fundraising efforts from pre-election solicitations to asking for money to help bankroll the coming court fights.
Tuesday's vote was held against an unprecedented backdrop: a pandemic that has killed more than 232,000 Americans and triggered a debilitating economic crisis in a year also marked by fierce public outrage over the country's racial divide.