WASHINGTON (AP) — For such a volatile year, the White House race between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden has been remarkably consistent.
With Election Day just eight weeks away, Biden is maintaining the same comfortable lead in most national polls that he enjoyed through the summer. He also has an advantage, though narrower, in many of the battleground states that will decide the election. Trump remains in striking distance, banking on the intensity of his most loyal supporters and the hope that disillusioned Republicans ultimately swing his way.
Still, both parties are braced for the prospect of sudden changes ahead, particularly as Trump makes an aggressive pitch to white suburban voters focused on safety and fear of violent unrest. It’s unclear how well his rhetoric will resonate, but Democrats insist it can’t be ignored, especially in the upper Midwest.
The top six swing states that are coalescing are Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which Trump flipped from the Democratic column during the general election, and three sunbelt states – North Carolina, Florida and Arizona.
“The advertising spending and the travel of both campaigns made clear those six are kind of the concentrated core of the battleground map,” said Bill Barrow, National Political Reporter for the Associated Press.
“Michigan, it’s worth noting, was the closest of those six,” Barrow added. “Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,700 votes, which is just a razor thin margin in presidential politics. And it’s hard to imagine any scenario in which Joe Biden becomes president of the United States without flipping a state like Michigan.”
Biden’s campaign is laser-focused on retaking Midwestern states, and also making a robust play for Arizona and Florida where Biden’s allies hoped the devastating toll of the pandemic would put them in a strong position there.
White House Reporter for the Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire, said a big factor could be seniors in swing states who disapprove of the president’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.
“It’s that same demographic that is hurting the president in Florida. Arizona is one that the Trump campaign didn’t think they’d have to fight too hard for. They now do. And in fact, there’s a growing fear that if Arizona slips away, they’ll have to make up those Electoral College votes somewhere else,” Lemire said.
There are also attempts from both political partieis to expand the battleground map.
Tom Beaumont, a national political correspondent for the Associated Press, said Republicans are investing heavily into Minnesota to spread the “law and order” message to win over the white suburbs, while Democrats are making a play for Ohio.
“Looking at the decline in those suburbs tells me that (Trump) may have more to worry about in Ohio,” Beaumont said. “And if he has more to worry about in Ohio, he definitely has more to worry about in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania.”
Both Biden, Trump and their running mates are filling their schedules with campaign events and there is still plenty of time for more surprises before the election results roll in this November.
“Both candidates have paths, but I think there is an agreement right now, Joe Biden at the moment has more of them,” Lemire said. “And that’s where we are two months out. We have lots of events and twists and turns ahead of us. There are plenty of ways for this race to change.”