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Some Battleground States Lean Toward Biden, According To A New NPR Analysis


Election Day is exactly three months away. While President Trump's campaign is launching new ads this week trying to paint Democrat Joe Biden as a left-wing radical, voters seem to be focused on the coronavirus pandemic and the damage it has done to the economy. We have a new analysis of where the state-by-state contests that will decide who wins the White House stand now. It comes from NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro.

Hi, Domenico.


SHAPIRO: So you've been looking at the Electoral College map and the battleground states that could tip things one way or the other in November. Right now what does the big picture look like?

MONTANARO: Well, right now Biden has the clear advantage, I mean, and it's expanded since we first did an analysis of the battleground states at the end of June. You know, reelections are always referenda on the sitting president. And President Trump has really suffered politically in the last several months because he's gotten low marks from Americans on his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and race relations, and that's really shifted things. And what we see is that the states leaning in Biden's direction, with those states, he is now over 270 electoral votes that you would need to win, a majority of the Electoral College. With states likely or leaning in Biden's direction, the former vice president is at 297 electoral votes. That's up from 238 at the end of June. Trump is at 170, down from 186. And we should say that this is based on the current environment, not intended to be predictive of where things will be.

SHAPIRO: So as I was looking at the map today and seeing the changes you made state by state, it doesn't look like anything shifted towards the Republicans but several states shifted, either lean Democratic or toss-up. Tell us state by state what has changed.

MONTANARO: Several changes - first, we took Colorado out of lean Democratic column and to the likely Democratic column because of how the polls have changed and Biden's strength in the suburbs. We've also moved four states from toss-up to lean Democrat - Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and, the big one, Florida. We also moved Georgia from lean Republican to toss-up. So you can see all those moves, like you said, are toward Biden. And we should say our analysis is not just based on polls. It's based on conversations with the campaigns, on-the-ground reporting and historical voting and demographic trends. It certainly can change. And by the way, both campaigns expect things to tighten.

SHAPIRO: Each one of those shifts could tell an interesting story. But broadly, what's the Trump campaign doing to respond?

MONTANARO: Well, look; the Trump campaign, first of all, will claim publicly that the polls are undersampling Republicans, that they're registering lots of voters. And we see some evidence in polling in some places where Biden is doing well, like Pennsylvania, where voters say that they expect their neighbors are Trump voters, but they're not quite willing to say so. But even if they won't admit it publicly, the Trump campaign - just look at their actions. You know, they see the problem that they're facing. They switched campaign managers. They changed out some of their advertising. And those ads are being run in places that really should lean toward a Republican, like Arizona and Georgia. And it's not a campaign really on offense right now.

SHAPIRO: So how different is this from what we saw at this point in the race in 2016 in terms of Trump's ability to persuade voters?

MONTANARO: Well, Biden in a lot of places is near or at 50% in more swing states than Hillary Clinton was. And there are some other key differences as well. Perhaps most important, the Democrats are not underestimating President Trump's chances to win reelection. And there's probably less likelihood of people voting third party because they think Biden will win in sort of the same way they did with Hillary Clinton. Also, Biden's doing better with suburban voters and seniors than Clinton was at this point. And Trump's campaign is focused on fear, telling suburban voters that if Biden is elected, crime will be rampant. But a lot of suburban voters just are saying that doesn't reflect what the current reality is for them. And more top of mind is the coronavirus pandemic, the economy and race relations. And if Trump isn't seen as handling any of those better than he is now, then it's going to be tough for him.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thank you.

MONTANARO: Hey, you're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.
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