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Biden's six best bets in 2016 Trump states

Biden's six best bets in 2016 Trump states
© Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The good news for Democratic presidential nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter Trump narrows Biden's lead in Pennsylvania: poll Florida breaks first-day early voting record with 350K ballots cast MORE is that he is tied or leading in the top six battleground states that Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE won in 2016. The bad news is he doesn’t have an insurmountable lead in any of them.

These six states stretch across the Frost Belt and Sun Belt states. In the Midwest, the swing states stretch from the Great Lakes to the bellowing steel mills of Western Pennsylvania, across the industrial Midwest, to the auto factories of Michigan and Wisconsin. The competition is also hot and heavy in the sunny climes of North Carolina and Florida in the Southeast and Arizona in the Southwest.

These six states represent 101 electoral votes and Biden has a shot at them all. If he holds all the states that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonLate night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study 10 steps toward better presidential debating Continuity is (mostly) on the menu for government contracting in the next administration MORE won in 2016, he only needs to win 43 of the votes in these six states for an Electoral College majority.

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Recent polls indicate that Biden is leading in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with a total of 57 electoral votes. The races in Florida and North Carolina with a total of 44 electoral votes are close contests. 

Florida is number one on the list of swing states in the presidential race and the contest is close in the Sunshine state, which is not surprising since Trump only won the popular vote there by 1.2 percent. A new survey from CBS News shows the two candidates in a statistical tie. A victory in Florida would go a long way to an Electoral College win for Biden. Adding Florida's 29 votes to the 227 that Clinton won in 2016 would bring the Democratic nominee up to 256 within spitting distance of a majority.

Pennsylvania is next on the shortlist of key states. Trump won the popular vote by only 0.7 percent and a poll for NBC News earlier this month shows Biden with a lead in the Keystone State. If Biden holds the states that Clinton won, Florida and Pennsylvania with over 20 electoral votes each would put him over the top in the Electoral College.

Michigan, which has 16 electoral votes, follows Florida and Pennsylvania in the presidential hit parade. Trump won Michigan in 2016 but his victory margin of 0.3 percent was skinnier there than it was in any other state he won. An EPIC poll gave the Democratic nominee an 8-point lead over the incumbent. 

Wisconsin, with 10 electoral votes, certainly deserves a spot on the list of key states in the presidential election. An ABC news survey released last week gave Biden a 6-point advantage over Trump in America’s Dairyland.

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The Rust Belt rules for Biden because Wisconsin is one of only three states, along with Pennsylvania and Michigan, where Trump won with less than 1 percent of the vote. Trump’s barely there wins in the three industrial Midwest states illustrate how tenuous the president’s electoral vote base is.

Arizona, where Biden is currently leading, has 11 Electoral College votes. The president’s problems extend to Arizona and Florida, which are in play for Biden. Trump won Arizona in 2016 by 3.5 percent, but the fast-growing Hispanic population and Biden’s new-found strength with senior citizens gives Biden a shot in the desert. A New York Times poll released on Sept. 18 gives Biden a 9 percent lead over the president. 

North Carolina has 15 Electoral College votes. Trump won the state with a 3.6 percent margin in 2016 but there is a large college educated voter population living in the Research Triangle, which is not part of the president's base. A New York Times poll has the race here as a virtual tie.

Arizona, North Carolina and Michigan are even more significant because they have competitive races that could determine partisan control of the U.S. Senate.

If Democrats don’t take control of the upper chamber, Biden won’t have a chance to act on his plans to end the deadly pandemic and jump start the ailing economy. The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgSenate GOP eyes Oct. 26 for confirming Barrett to Supreme Court GOP blocks Schumer effort to adjourn Senate until after election Overnight Defense: Supreme Court to hear case on diversion of Pentagon funds to border wall | Biden campaign cutting retired general from ad after objection | Trump's arms control talks with Russia hit wall MORE has added urgency to these Senate races. 

Democrats also have a shot at flipping a U.S. Senate race from red to blue in North Carolina. Democratic nominee Cal Cunningham has a 6-point lead over the Republican incumbent, Sen. Thom TillisThomas (Thom) Roland TillisSenate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw Democrats see cash floodgates open ahead of Election Day MORE

Michigan has a competitive U.S. Senate race that Democrats need to hold in order to take back control of the upper chamber. The incumbent in a tight race with the GOP challenger John James. Gary PetersGary Charles PetersOvernight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Government watchdog to investigate allegations of Trump interference at CDC, FDA State of the race: 'Cancel culture' and polling don't mix MORE is one of only two incumbent Democratic senators in a vulnerable position. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) is the other. 

Mark Kelly, a strong Democratic candidate running for the U.S. Senate in Arizona, might create reverse coattail action for the top of the ticket. He currently has a 7 percent edge over incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallySenate Republicans offer constitutional amendment to block Supreme Court packing Biden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Push to expand Supreme Court faces Democratic buzzsaw MORE, who was appointed to fill late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden and Schumer face battles with left if Democrats win big Trump digs in on conspiracy theory over bin Laden raid At 97, Bob Dole is still fighting for his country MORE’s seat in a special election. Should he win, Kelly could be sworn into office in November and help block any attempt to fill the vacancy on the high court.

Other states could play a role in the outcome of the presidential and senatorial races, for example Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Mexico, where Clinton barely won in 2016. Biden might break through with Texas and Georgia, but they lie on a path just over a bridge too far. The Democratic presidential nominee has bigger and better fish to fry.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.