With one week until Election Day, Republican U.S. President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, headed Tuesday to political battleground states in a frantic push to shore up critical support to win a four-year term in the White House.
Their travel plans reflect the state of the race, with polls showing Biden ahead of Trump by seven to nine percentage points nationally and about half that in contested states that are likely to determine the overall outcome.
On Tuesday, Trump is on defense, headed to three midwestern states he won in his upset victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 -- Michigan, Wisconsin and Nebraska – and likely needs to capture again to win a second term.
But polls show him trailing in Michigan and Wisconsin and, while he is ahead statewide in reliably Republican Nebraska, he trails in the race to win a single elector in an Omaha-based congressional district that could play a role in deciding next week’s national winner.
Meanwhile, the seemingly confident Biden is on offense, headed to two stops in the southern state of Georgia, which has not backed a Democrat for president since 1992. Pollsters show Biden and Trump locked in a tossup to win the state’s 16 Electoral College votes.
Typically, all of a state’s Electoral College votes go to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in that state. Both Trump and Biden are looking to piece together state-by-state victories to get to a majority of 270 in the 538-member Electoral College, where the most populous states hold the most sway.
Trump lost the national popular vote four years ago and is likely to again this time, but he retains a chance to win the presidency a second time in the Electoral College if he can claim wins in key battleground states he is visiting in the final days of the contentious campaign.
Four years ago, Trump narrowly won three northern states – Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – that traditionally have voted for Democrats. He likely needs to capture at least Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes, along with holding other key states he won in 2016, in order to remain the U.S. leader.
Forecasts show Biden has numerous paths to 270 votes in the Electoral College, including recapturing Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin while holding on to all the states Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton won in 2016. Currently, polls show Biden ahead of Trump in all the states she captured, making Trump’s climb to winning even steeper.
Later in the week, Biden is headed to another state Trump won last time -- the Midwest farm state of Iowa. Biden’s vice-presidential running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, is visiting two more 2016 Trump states -- Arizona, where polling shows Biden narrowly pulling ahead, and populous Texas with 38 electors, where Trump is maintaining a slight advantage.
But the former vice president is also mindful of Clinton’s downfall at the end of the 2016 campaign when she shunned a last-minute stop in Wisconsin. Biden is visiting there later in the week, as well as Michigan and the pivotal southeastern state of Florida, Trump’s adopted home state where he maintains a mansion along the Atlantic coastline.
On Tuesday, Trump, fresh from presiding over Monday night’s White House swearing-in ceremony for newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, is heading to a rally in the Michigan capital of Lansing and a stop in the small city of West Salem, Wisconsin, before leaving for the visit to Omaha, Nebraska’s biggest city.
At large outdoor rallies, Trump has contended that he successfully helped build the American economy before it was decimated this year by the onslaught of the coronavirus, and that he can restore the economy again.
Trump has several times this week said the national news media continue to report extensively on the devastation the pandemic has wrought on the U.S., which has recorded a world-leading 225,000 deaths and 8.7 million infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In all caps, Trump tweeted, “ALL THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IS COVID, COVID, COVID. ON NOVEMBER 4th, YOU WON’T BE HEARING SO MUCH ABOUT IT ANYMORE. WE ARE ROUNDING THE TURN!!!”
But Biden has regularly assailed Trump’s handling of the virus, saying in a statement that the moment “required presidential leadership – and when we needed it, President Trump panicked. He froze. And today, eight months into this crisis, he still has no plan to get the virus under control, no interest in listening to the scientists, and no ability to lead our country through this moment.”
More than 66 million Americans have already cast early ballots, two-thirds of them by mail and one-third in person at polling stations. Many voters say they are looking to avoid coming face-to-face with others in the expected long lines of people waiting to cast ballots next Tuesday.