President Donald Trump’s aides pored over election maps in the White House West Wing. They cheered their candidate in the East Room as Election Day results in critical states such as Florida and Ohio came in favoring the Republican leader on Tuesday.
But their cautious confidence took on irritation when Arizona, a state that backed Trump in 2016, was called by Fox News for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, said sources familiar with the situation who asked not to be named.
The president, who earlier in the day visited staff at his campaign headquarters in nearby Virginia, watched election returns with his family in the White House residence’s upstairs living room.
“He’s calm, chilling,” said a source familiar with the scene. “He’s in the hunt.”
As a tight White House race came down to a handful of states where vote-counting could take hours or days, Trump’s wife, Melania, along with his adult children and their spouses, moved in and out of the room.
Downstairs and in the West Wing, aides played with election maps on their computers to gauge Trump’s potential path to achieving the 270 electoral votes he would need to secure re-election.
“We feel good,” said one senior Trump adviser, who expressed both frustrations that Florida was not called for the president earlier in the night as well as optimism about his chances in Michigan and Nevada.
“Good. But nervous,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said of the mood among Trump’s circle.
In the East Room on the other side of the White House, guests, including close advisers, Cabinet members, and fundraisers, were sipping drinks, snacking on chicken fingers, and watching the returns on large TV screens set up in the historic room.
According to sources in the room, the room cheered when Fox News called the races in Florida and Ohio, two big and crucial swing states, for the president.
But the right-leaning network drew criticism from Trump loyalists for calling Arizona early for Biden.
“WAY too soon to be calling Arizona…way too soon,” Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller tweeted.
Trump also weighed in on Twitter after midnight in a post the social media company swiftly tagged as potentially misleading.
“We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the election. We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!” Trump tweeted.