How Trump and Biden are polling in 5 ‘new battleground’ states that could shape the election
Our mission to help you navigate the new normal is fueled by subscribers. To enjoy unlimited access to our journalism, subscribe today.
With a little more than four months left until Election Day, Democratic nominee Joe Biden holds a commanding lead over President Donald Trump in virtually every national poll measuring the two men’s prospects of winning the 2020 presidential election. According to polling data aggregator RealClearPolitics’ most recent National Average poll, Biden is currently ahead of Trump by 9.2 points—a gap that has manifested itself in betting odds that now have Biden as the favorite to defeat Trump in November.
On the state level too, a new crop of battleground states have emerged that could further tip the scales in Biden’s favor. Most notably, while traditional swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania seem to be trending firmly in Biden’s direction, the likes of Texas and Arizona—states that are usually GOP strongholds—increasingly appear to be toss-ups.
Of course, the polls have mistakenly counted out Donald Trump before (see: the 2016 presidential election). But here’s a closer look at five of the closest races on the 2020 national map.
The big kahuna. With the second-most electoral votes on the map (38), the Lone Star State has traditionally been about as red as you can get—a bedrock of the GOP’s national electoral strategy for decades.
That makes the polls currently coming out of Texas all the more alarming if you’re a Republican. RealClearPolitics’ polling average for the state currently has Trump with a meager two-point advantage over Biden, while Fox News’ most recent poll actually has Biden carrying a one-point lead over the President (albeit with a three-point margin of error).
Those are shocking numbers for anyone who follows American electoral politics, even in the face of evidence that migration patterns could turn Texas into a younger, more liberal “purple” state in the coming years. Yet it’s also understandable when one considers the extent to which Texas is currently being ravaged by COVID-19; the state reported nearly 6,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, which led Gov. Greg Abbott to halt reopening plans. With Texas having seemingly parroted the White House’s laissez-faire approach to dealing with the pandemic, the escalating situation in the state could end up costing President Trump his job.
Another state that is traditionally in the red corner, and one that has gained electoral votes in recent years as more Americans have opted to resettle in the Sunbelt.
But there’s evidence that Arizona’s 11 electoral votes could go to a Democrat for the first time since 1996; Biden currently leads Trump by four points in the state, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average. Like Texas, Arizona has seen a sharp escalation in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, which many observers believe is also tied to the state’s decision to reopen its economy prematurely.
The presidential election isn’t the only one in which Democrats appear poised to stage an upset in Arizona. Incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally appears to be in an uphill battle to retain her seat, with Democratic challenger Mark Kelly currently holding a double-digit lead over her in some polls.
Barack Obama won the Tar Heel State’s 15 electoral votes in 2008—but otherwise, the last Democrat to win in North Carolina was Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Joe Biden could well buck the trend, if the polls are to be believed; he currently holds a 2.4-point advantage over Donald Trump, per the RealClearPolitics average. The most recent Fox News poll gave Biden a two-point lead, while the most recent New York Times/Siena College poll put Biden’s advantage at nine points.
Given the President’s controversial approach to dealing with race relations in the U.S.—as evidenced in the wake of the protests after George Floyd’s death—it’s worth noting that North Carolina’s population is more than 22% Black, according to the Census Bureau’s most recent estimates. If Biden is able to turn out Black voters en masse this fall, it could see him join the ranks of Obama and Carter as Democrats to win the state.
A traditional swing state that went convincingly in Donald Trump’s favor in 2016, there’s been ample conjecture since the last election that Ohio could become a fixture in the GOP column for years to come.
Not so fast: Biden and Trump are in a dead heat for the Buckeye State’s 18 electoral votes, according to RealClearPolitics’ polling average. A Biden victory in Ohio would see the Democrats take back territory that both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama won twice—though so did Republican George W. Bush in both of his presidential campaigns—and dispel all the talk that the state was becoming a lost cause.
The Hawkeye State is known for its independent politics and prominent role as the first major state up for grabs in the presidential primaries every four years. Though this year’s Iowa caucuses, as you may recall, proved an event the state’s Democratic Party would rather forget.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both won Iowa twice, as did Al Gore in 2000, while George W. Bush edged John Kerry to victory in the state in 2004. While Trump defeated Hillary Clinton handily four years ago, it’s poised to be a much tighter race for Iowa’s six electoral votes this time around; the President currently has only a 1.5-point lead over Biden, per the RealClearPolitics average.
How it could all shake out
Using the Financial Times’ excellent interactive calculator, which allows users to tally up each candidate’s various paths to victory, it’s clear that the President is facing an uphill path to reelection as things stand.
Even if Trump wins all five of the aforementioned battleground states, he would still need to stage an upset in no fewer than two of the more traditional swing states (including Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan) that currently appear to be going firmly in Biden’s favor. And even then, without victory in Florida or Pennsylvania—which carry the most weight with 29 and 20 electoral votes, respectively—the President’s reelection would appear to be out of reach.
But again, that’s assuming that things remain as they stand. As we’ve seen before, four months can be an eternity in politics.
More politics coverage from Fortune:
- Protests, coronavirus face masks pose challenges for facial recognition
- George Floyd protests force Britain to reckon with its role in slavery, leading some companies to pay reparations
- This is what people mean when they say they want to defund the police
- Photos: In city squares and parks outside U.S. embassy buildings, Black Lives Matter protests go global
- WATCH: Protests for George Floyd from around the U.S.