President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden each had a path to the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House where Biden’s chances were wider.
The former vice-president was competitive in all the battleground states Trump carried in 2016 and had put a handful of traditional Republican states, including Georgia and Arizona, in play. That had Trump scrambling to defend a wide swath of territory and putting the incumbent’s hopes for re-election on two of the most populous swing states, Florida and Pennsylvania.
Biden could win an electoral majority most simply by carrying the three states where Trump stunned Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 – Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Those states were carried by Democrats for decades before 2016. They would give Biden 279 electoral votes, as long as he wins all the other states in Clinton’s column. Under this scenario, Biden would not need to win any other states Trump won in 2016.
The three northern industrial states had been Biden’s sharpest target for advertising dollars. He spent almost $150 million — 30 per cent of his total national ad spending since June — in the three, according to Kantar/CMAG’s review for The Associated Press.
The fiercest struggle among the three was in Pennsylvania. Biden has had a slight advantage in most polls, while some suggested Trump remained within striking distance. If Biden loses Pennsylvania, it would require him to find 11 electoral votes elsewhere.
Once reliably Republican Arizona, offering exactly 11, and North Carolina, with 15, were states Trump won four years ago that were well within Biden’s reach.
Democrats were particularly bullish about Arizona, last carried by a Democrat in 1996. Trump won the state in 2016 by 3.5 percent, the smallest margin in 20 years, and this year, the Democrats’ Senate candidate, former astronaut Mark Kelly, was running a strong race.
The Arizona alternative supposed, as most of Biden’s paths did, that he also wins Nevada, last carried by a Republican in 2004. Trump had campaigned in the state, though Democrats said that they were comfortable with their prospects there.
The race for North Carolina appeared tighter, but there was recent precedent for a Democrat carrying the state. In 2008, Barack Obama was the first Democrat to take it in 32 years. Although he narrowly lost there in 2012, as did Clinton in 2016, waves of college-educated newcomers were swelling its booming suburbs, a boost to Biden’s chances.
There’s another scenario for Biden: a more comfortable Electoral College victory.
Should Biden win Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and either Arizona and North Carolina, he would capture at least 290 electoral votes.
He’s also competing for Ohio, which Trump won by 8 percent in 2016, Iowa which Trump won by nearly 10 percent, and Georgia which Trump carried by 5 percent. Victories in those states would boost Biden’s electoral total above 300.
Biden made two stops in Georgia this past this week and on Friday had his first fall campaign visit to Iowa. He’s spent almost $5 million but hadn’t visited Iowa since the state’s caucuses in February. Biden had campaigned lightly in Ohio but had spent almost $7 million in advertising. Surveys and operatives in both parties said that the two states were very close heading into the campaign’s final weekend.
Florida offered 29 electoral votes and was, per usual, exceedingly close.
Democrats have been eyeing Texas for years, but this was the first year in decades where it might be within reach for the party.
The state’s new battleground status highlighted not just Trump’s struggles in the suburbs, which were booming outside Texas’ major cities, but also his weaknesses in nearly every state with a diverse electorate.
‘Biden has more of an opportunity to win by a larger electoral number than Trump does,’ said Republican pollster Glen Bolger, who was surveying in several battleground states but not for Trump’s campaign.
‘It doesn’t mean Trump can’t win,’ he added.
Trump almost certainly cannot reach 270 electoral votes without carrying Florida, where polls show a tight race. Some have suggested a slight Biden advantage.
Trump’s rally Thursday in Florida was his third campaign trip to the state this month, underscoring why Florida was so important to his re-election. He planned to return before Tuesday’s election.
His stop on Thursday was in swing-voting Hillsborough County, where Clinton beat him by about 41,000 votes. Hillsborough was next to — and shared a media market with — Pinellas County, the most populous county in the state to flip from Democratic in 2012 to Republican in 2016.
Trump won some counties in the surrounding area by more than 60 per cent of the vote, and his campaign hoped it could further run up the score with first-time and less regular voters in these places.
Trump planned to accompany first lady Melania Trump when she votes Tuesday near Palm Beach County. The Trumps moved their residence from reliably Democratic New York to Florida last year.
Even if Trump nets Florida and holds battlegrounds he won in the South and Southwest, he would still be short of 270 electoral votes.
The president was wagering much on Pennsylvania as the best chance of moving within striking distance of that threshold. After a trio of rallies this past week, Trump held four more in the state on Saturday.
He’s been making stops across Pennsylvania, from counties outside Philadelphia, the largest metro area, to the rural northwest corner of the state.
Bucks County was once Philadelphia’s most GOP-heavy suburb but had been trending Democratic and was an example of the obstacles Trump was facing. He lost the county by less than 2 percent in 2016 and had seen his standing in the suburbs steadily erode since then.
Trump’s argument to Pennsylvania voters was recharged after Biden, during their October 22 debate, called for phasing out fossil fuels. That created an opportunity for Trump in a state with a robust natural gas industry.
‘Biden’s plan to abolish the entire US oil industry — you saw that?’ Trump noted at a rally last week in Lansing, Michigan, recalling Biden’s call for phasing renewable fuels in and fossil fuels out over time. ‘Will cripple our nation and send us into an absolute deep depression,’ he added.
Even if Trump wins Florida and Pennsylvania, he would still be short if he can’t carry most of the states he won in 2016.
He could nose ahead in Ohio, long one of his strongest states, but would still need to cobble together a series of states he won in 2016, such as Iowa, and some he lost narrowly and continues to trail.
That more complicated path would include flipping Minnesota, Nevada and New Hampshire. That, however, would defy political logic for an incumbent to lose in places won four years ago and win in places lost back then.
Grasping for every vote he could, Trump had even campaigned in Maine and Nebraska, where electoral votes were awarded by congressional district and to the overall state winner. A week ago, Trump was in Levant, Maine, near the hub of the state’s GOP leaning north, Bangor, hoping to hold the single electoral vote in its 2nd District, and in Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday, hoping to hold that metropolitan district’s single vote.-AP