Perhaps one of the most unexpected developments in the 2020 presidential campaign is how remarkably stable the state of the race has proved to be through extraordinarily turbulent times.
As the race for the White House comes to a close, the landscape looks quite similar to how it looked after the party conventions in August as the fall campaign got underway.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden seems to have a slight edge in those critical upper Midwest and industrial Great Lakes states (Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania) that Donald Trump narrowly won in 2016 and delivered him the White House.
The most competitive sun belt states (Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Arizona) remain true toss-up states that Trump needs to win again. He also needs to prevent Biden from completely rebuilding that “Blue Wall” in the Midwest.
In our final pre-election electoral college outlook, we are moving Arizona from lean Democratic to a true toss-up battleground state.
It is a state that has been at the very heart of the Democratic Party’s project to expand its map over the last decade and 2020 may be the year it flips.
However, the polling out of the state in the last 24 hours indicates it is a margin-of-error tossup state. Arizona has only been won by a Democratic presidential candidate once in the last 70 years and that’s when Bill Clinton won the state in his 1996 reelection campaign.
The shifting demographics in the state coupled with the huge Democratic success in the suburbs during the Trump era give every reason for Democrats to be hopeful there.
But Trump’s poll numbers there look markedly better than they do in the other states we have leaning Democratic on the map, which likely puts this state more within his reach than those in the upper Midwest and Rust Belt.
It is clear that Trump’s path to reelection is far narrower than Biden’s, but it remains a viable one. And, while 2020 is a fundamentally different political environment than 2016, he showed the ability to pave such a path just four years ago.
Biden’s campaign is bullish about its wide number of potential paths to 270 electoral votes.
The campaign’s primary battleground has been in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — the three “blue wall” states that Trump toppled in 2016.
But Biden’s campaign also believes it is positioned to win some Sun Belt states. It has targeted Arizona, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, dispatching Harris to each of those states in the race’s closing days and sending former President Barack Obama to Atlanta and Miami on Monday.
It is also eyeing three states that weren’t expected to be presidential battlegrounds this year: Iowa, Ohio and Texas, where early voting numbers exploded this year, surpassing the total number of votes cast there in the 2016 election.
Trump, meanwhile, has sought to put in play two states Hillary Clinton won in 2016: Minnesota and Nevada.
“Under no scenario will Donald Trump be declared a victor on election night,” Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon said in a public briefing Monday.
“At the end of the day, we believe we’re going to win this race,” she said. “We believe we’re going to be able to do that with our pathways to victory regardless of what Donald Trump says.”