Biden dominates the electoral map, but here’s how the race could tighten

Laveta Brigham

WASHINGTON — When you’re leading a presidential race nationally by double digits, you’re set to exceed 300 electoral votes. And that’s where we have Joe Biden in our first battleground map of 2020, where the Democrat is ahead in states like Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin, and where the race is […]

WASHINGTON — When you’re leading a presidential race nationally by double digits, you’re set to exceed 300 electoral votes.

And that’s where we have Joe Biden in our first battleground map of 2020, where the Democrat is ahead in states like Arizona, Florida and Wisconsin, and where the race is essentially tied in Georgia, Iowa and Texas.

Our map— based on public and private polling, as well as conversations with Democratic and Republican strategists watching the race — shows Biden standing at 334 electoral votes, President Trump is at 125 electoral votes, and 79 electoral votes are in the Toss up category.

But an important caveat: This is where the Biden-versus Trump race stands right now, and if/when the contest begins to tighten, we’ll readjust our map. (And see below on exactly how the race can get closer.)

Solid D: California, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Washington (130 electoral votes).

Likely D: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia (82).

Lean D: Arizona, Florida, Maine-02, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin (122).

Toss Up: Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska-02, Ohio, Texas (79).

Lean R: N/A (0).

Likely R: Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Utah (56).

Solid R: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia, Wyoming (69).

(Our definitions: Solid is where the candidate has a 15-point or higher lead; Likely is where the candidate is ahead by 10 to 15 points; Lean is where it’s within or slightly outside the margin of error; and TOSS UP is where it’s a virtual tie.)

Now not all Likely, Lean and Toss Up states are created equally. Here are the Lean D states in order of most likely to go Biden’s way to least likely: Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Maine-02 and Florida.

Here are the Toss Up states in order from mostly likely to go Biden’s way versus Trump’s: Nebraska-02, Ohio, Iowa, Georgia and Texas.

And we have states like Colorado and Virginia that fit between Likely D and Lean D, but we’re putting in Likely D for now.

How Republicans can bring soft GOP voters back home

But if you wanted to see how states like Georgia, Iowa and Texas could easily move from Toss Up to Lean R — and also how Lean D states like Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida could move into Toss Up — just look at the current GOP advertising.

Bottom line: The GOP is trying to bring soft Republicans back home.

Note the Trump advertising tying Biden to Bernie Sanders, AOC and Ilhan Omar.

Or the Trump Super PAC ads claiming that Biden wants to raise taxes.

Or that fact that the main GOP Super PAC for Senate races announced that $17 million of the $21 million it’s spending in its upcoming buy are slated for Georgia, Iowa and Montana — all trying to bring Republican back home.

And whether or not Republicans are successful here is the difference between our current map and something that looks closer to 2016’s.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

4,836,703: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 54,283 more cases than yesterday morning.)

159,398: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,337 more than yesterday morning.)

58.92 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

Every 80 seconds: How often there is now a death from coronavirus in the United States.

$400 a week: The amount of unemployment insurance being discussed on the Hill as a potential — but far from finalized — compromise in the latest round of coronavirus relief legislation, down from $600 weekly.

As many as 250,000: The number of people who may come to the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota, prompting fears that it could become a super spreader event.

$165 million vs. $140 million: The respective fundraising hauls in the month of July for Trump’s campaign and its affiliates vs. Joe Biden’s.

38: The number of woman vs. woman races at the congressional level this cycle, a record, according to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: It’s Primary Thursday in Tennessee

Voters are voting today in Tennessee, where the marquee contest is the GOP Senate primary in the race to replace retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

Bill Hagerty, a former private equity exec who most recently served as Trump’s ambassador to Japan, was long seen as the shoo-in for the seat; Trump endorsed him almost immediately, even before Hagerty made his own campaign official.

But surgeon and first-generation American Manny Sethi appears to have surged in the closing weeks of a race that has become increasingly nasty and personal. Public polling has been scarce; Sethi’s internal numbers have shown a closer race than Hagerty’s, but both campaigns have been ratcheting up negative attacks.

In a sign of how the GOP tide has turned against its 2012 presidential nominee, Sethi and his allies have lambasted Hagerty as “another Romney” because of his past role as national finance chair for Romney’s 2008 presidential campaign. (Hagerty later served as Trump’s Tennessee Victory Chair in 2016, and he has now distanced himself from Romney – even labeling him “weak-kneed” in a recent ad.)

Sethi’s ads have also included warnings about “left-wing mobs” and an “illegal immigrant invasion.” Hagerty’s ads have included one featuring a veteran who says he doesn’t trust Sethi to stop flag-burners because he once donated to “a left-wing group that is bankrolling the rioters.” (That’s a reference to a $50 donation Sethi’s wife says she made in 2008 via commonly-used online fundraising platform ActBlue.)

The contest has split Republican officials, with both Ted Cruz and Rand Paul backing Sethi, while Hagerty boasts support from Trump and Sens. Mitch McConnell, Marsha Blackburn and Tom Cotton.

Bottom line: This isn’t Lamar Alexander’s or Bob Corker’s Republican Party in Tennessee anymore.

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch comes from MTP Daily’s Ed Demaria, who flagged this new Biden spot running in Florida.

The spot, running in Orlando and Tampa per Advertising Analytics, is set in The Villages, the mega-retirement home typically seen as GOP-leaning. In it, a grandmother laments how the coronavirus pandemic has prevented her from seeing her grandchildren, expressing frustration that President Trump’s response hasn’t contained the virus.

Still no deal

There’s still no deal on Capitol Hill on the coronavirus relief negotiations. And while there’s still a goal to reach a compromise by Friday, it’s not entirely assured they’ll make it, NBC News’ Hill team reports.

“I feel optimistic that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. But how long that tunnel is remains to be seen,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters after a Wednesday afternoon meeting with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and White House negotiators Steve Mnuchin and Mark Meadows.

Meadows told reporters that there will be no deal by Friday if there aren’t agreements made on “major issues”. “This is not a fine wine, it doesn’t improve with time,” Meadows said.

So what are they still working out? Per our Hill team, negotiators have circled around proposals to extend the federal unemployment benefit to $400 per week (down from the $600 people had been getting and in the House Democrats’ bill, but up from the $200 in the Senate Republicans’ bill) and whether to extend the eviction moratorium through December.

The Lid: Mitt Split

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we previewed the Tennessee Senate primary and looked at how Mitt Romney became the bad guy.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Vice President Mike Pence said in an interview that Chief Justice John Roberts has let conservatives down.

Trump says he’ll “probably” deliver his convention address from the White House.

And Democrats have officially nixed Biden’s travel to Milwaukee to accept the Democratic nomination.

Where is Kanye West trying to get on the ballot — and who’s behind it?

The New York Times’ Carl Hulse writes that Mitch McConnell “has put himself in one of the toughest spots of a political life that has seen plenty of them.”

Michelle Obama is opening up about experiencing “low-grade depression.”

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