Biden poised to move quickly on transition if he's declared winner

By Jeff Zeleny, Eric Bradner and Sarah Mucha, CNN

    (CNN) -- On the cusp of winning the presidency, Joe Biden is poised to deliver an address to the nation Friday -- while his team prepares to move quickly and announce major pieces of his transition into the White House.

Biden's team is also preparing for a stark reality: If he wins, he will have to fight for the legitimacy of his own victory.

As of Friday morning, Biden has 253 electoral votes, while President Donald Trump has 213, according to CNN projections. In the battlegrounds, Biden has taken narrow leads in Pennsylvania and Georgia, as well as kept his leads in Arizona and Nevada.

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The stage is set in Biden's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, with fireworks ready if Biden is declared the winner of the election and a speech takes place Friday.

Meanwhile, his advisers have mounted an aggressive behind-the-scenes push to get his supporters -- and, even more importantly, Republicans -- to help validate the sanctity of the election.

The Biden campaign took note of President Donald Trump's dire tone in the White House on Thursday night and began a plan that is underway today to get his old allies in the Senate -- and others from a lifetime in public life -- to speak to the legitimacy of the election.

His campaign also made clear that a Trump concession is not necessary. "The American people will decide this election. And the United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House," Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement Friday morning.

Biden does not plan to wait for any of Trump's legal challenges to be settled, a person familiar with the plan said, and intends to immediately shift into mode of President-elect to avoid ceding any momentum.

The Biden transition team has been working behind-the-scenes for months -- as required of all candidates seeking the presidency -- but the urgency of the plan is being seen by Biden advisers as even more importance in the wake of Trump's questioning the legitimacy of the election.

One of the most important conversations Biden will have is with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The two men have not spoken yet -- a Biden aide said that would be premature; a McConnell adviser said it hasn't happened -- but they expect that call to be made later Friday.

The Kentucky Republican will play a key role in approving members of the Biden Cabinet if Republicans continue to hold their majority -- which even Democrats concede is likely, with party control potentially hinging on two January 5 runoffs for Senate seats in Georgia.

Biden and McConnell have a long relationship, serving together in the Senate for decades, but also working closely and cutting deals during former President Barack Obama's administration.

"He will need that relationship more than ever now," a friend of Biden's said.

For McConnell's part, he intends to take a remarkably cautious approach to Biden -- given the sensitivity surrounding Trump's expected refusal to concede -- but a person close to him said he will speak to Biden when the time is right and will be eager to do so.

Biden sought to project confidence and competence on Thursday, attending a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic -- a crisis that he could soon be tasked with managing -- and delivering a short speech in Wilmington.

"Stay calm. The process is working. The count is being completed," he said as votes were being counted in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, with Biden at 253 electoral votes, according to CNN's projections, of the 270 he needs to clinch the presidency.

"Each ballot must be counted, and that's how it should be. Democracy is sometimes messy; it sometimes requires a little patience as well," he said.

The-CNN-Wire
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