Biden’s six best bets in 2016 Trump states

The good news for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is that he is tied or leading in the top six battleground states that Donald Trump 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 Clinton won in 2016, he only needs to win 43 of the votes in these six states for an Electoral College majority.

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.

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 Ginsburg 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 Tillis. 

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 Peters 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 McSally, who was appointed to fill late Sen. John McCain’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.

Tags 2020 elections battle ground states Donald Trump doug jones Gary Peters Hillary Clinton incumbents Joe Biden John McCain key states Martha McSally polls presidential elections Ruth Bader Ginsburg Senate races Thom Tillis vulnerable senators

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