Earlier tonight Joe Biden addressed his supporters from Delaware. He said that he believed they were on the way to victory, and was looking forward to the ongoing count.
In brief remarks from the White House, Donald Trump escalated, saying that he believed he’d won, and alleging improprieties aimed at depriving him and his supporters of an earned victory. This was met immediately by rebuke in the media across almost the entire spectrum. Lawyers are getting involved presently.
I would expect that, sometime after the sun rises, Joe Biden will appear and match or exceed Trump in response, likely alleging that Trump’s statement and intentions are aimed at stealing the election.
Recall that many city blocks across the country were boarded up before Election Day began.
The only off-ramp from further escalation is a clear and legitimate electoral result from counting the ballots.
The effect of a delay in counting sets a hard “number” on the board in states such as Pennsylvania. It’s the number of votes that Biden will need to overtake the Election-Day lead of Donald Trump. Pauses in the counting will, infallibly, make the closing of that gap seem more suspicious, since that number was hung on the board for a period of time before all the ballots came in.