Nine weeks from Election Day in the United States, former Vice President Joe Biden is holding on to his monthslong lead over President Donald Trump in nationwide polling,
But surveys show the race has narrowed and is even closer in key battleground states that are likely to determine the outcome.
Biden, who was a U.S. senator for 36 years, and former President Barack Obama’s second in command for eight, has mostly led Trump by 8 to 10 percentage points in surveys throughout 2020.
But his lead has diminished to an average of 6.2 percentage points in the aggregation of recent polls compiled by the RealClearPolitics website. Biden’s edge is even thinner in three key states often won by Democrats — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — which Trump narrowly captured in 2016 to secure his election victory.
The U.S. decides the presidency through an indirect form of democracy, not by the national popular vote but in the Electoral College, where the winner in each state receives all of that state’s electoral votes. Each state’s number of electoral votes is based on its population.
Would-be presidents must win at least 270 of the 538 electoral votes. The most populous states — Democrat-leaning California with 55 votes, and Republican-controlled Texas with 38 — hold the most sway. Seven states and Washington, D.C., hold the least sway, with three electoral votes apiece.
If Biden reclaims Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and the outcome in the other 47 states remains politically the same as in 2016, the 77-year-old Democrat will win the presidency. Current polling has Biden ahead in all three states, but narrowly, by 4.7 percentage points in Pennsylvania, 2.6 in Michigan and 3.5 in Wisconsin.
Trump, 74, lost the national popular vote in 2016 by about 2 percentage points — nearly 3 million votes — to Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of State.
In the days before the election, several pollsters predicted a Clinton national advantage, but did not account for Trump winning the three battleground states that Obama captured in 2012. Clinton’s popular vote advantage was largely due to an overwhelming win in California.
Aside from the three highly contested states, polling shows other states are up for grabs in the Nov. 3 election that could also play a pivotal factor in the national outcome.
RealClearPolitics polling shows Biden ahead in the important southeastern state of Florida, Trump’s adopted home, by 3.7 percentage points. Florida has 29 electoral votes, and a Trump loss there would likely make it very difficult, although not impossible, for him to win a second term.
Biden and Trump are also neck-and-neck in eight other states, six of which Trump won in 2016. Biden now has small leads, according to the polling, in four of the states, including two that Trump won against Clinton — Ohio in the Midwest and Arizona in the Southwestern part of the country.
Only two U.S. incumbent presidents, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992, have lost reelection bids in the past four decades.
Trump and Biden are slated to debate each other three times, once later in September and twice in October. Their respective running mates, Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris, are to debate once in early October.