US Election: Who is winning with one week left?

 

We are exactly one week away from America's presidential election, and both candidates still have a realistic chance of winning.

With all the usual caveats in mind, then, it is probably time to look at the polling.

Remember, there are 50 states in America, but when the votes are counted, just a handful of them will decide who wins.

These are the "swing states" or "battleground states", a relatively small group of states that could conceivably be won by either Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

In this election, 15 states fall into that category.

The rest? We already know who will win them. Mr Trump stands no chance whatsoever in Democratic Party strongholds like New York and California, for example, while he is unbeatable in heavily Republican territory, like Alabama or Oklahoma.

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The ultimate goal is to reach a threshold of 270 electoral votes. Winning the popular vote in any given state will earn a candidate its entire haul of electoral votes, and move them that much closer to victory.

Below we have listed the states that are genuinely up for grabs, in alphabetical order. They represent a total of 221 electoral votes.

We'll run you through the current state of the polls in each state, according to the RealClearPolitics average.

We have also included the best margin each candidate has had in each state throughout the campaign, for added context.

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The swing states are in grey, with safe Democratic states in blue and safe Republican ones in red. Picture: 270toWin
The swing states are in grey, with safe Democratic states in blue and safe Republican ones in red. Picture: 270toWin

ARIZONA (11 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +2.4

Biden's best margin: Biden +5.7

Trump's best margin: Biden +2

Since 1952, Arizona has only voted for a Democratic candidate once - Bill Clinton, in 1996 - and Donald Trump won it by a moderately comfortable margin of 4 per cent in 2016.

That doesn't sound like the voting pattern of a swing state, and yet, Arizona is very much in play this time. Mr Trump has never led Mr Biden in the state's polling average.

Of significance, perhaps, is the fact that Arizona was the home state of the late Republican senator John McCain, an American war hero who died in 2018.

Mr Trump feuded with Mr McCain, who was one of the President's few vocal critics within his own party, and that might hurt him with Arizonans.

The state has also undergone a pretty clear political shift to the left since 2016, with Democrats winning a few marquee statewide elections.

COLORADO (9 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +9.5

Biden's best margin: Biden +10

Trump's best margin: Biden +9

In the last six presidential elections, Colorado has been evenly split, going Democratic and Republican three times each.

The problem for Mr Trump is that those three Republican victories came in 1996, 2000 and 2004. The Democrats are now aiming to win it four times in a row.

Hillary Clinton beat Mr Trump by 5 per cent in Colorado four years ago, and the very limited polling we've seen this time around has shown him even further behind.

FLORIDA (29 electoral votes)

Current margin: Trump +0.4

Biden's best margin: Biden +7.8

Trump's best margin: Trump +0.4

If you only watch one state early in the evening, make it this one.

Florida is always unpredictable, and always close. The most famous example came in 2000, when George W. Bush was controversially declared the winner over Al Gore by 537 votes (Mr Bush won 48.85 per cent, compared to Mr Gore's 48.84 per cent).

Mr Trump won it by 1.19 per cent four years ago, and Barack Obama by 0.88 per cent in 2012. Even in the landslide 2008 election the margin in Florida was less than 3 per cent. Blowouts simply do not seem to happen there.

It also happens to be one of the biggest prizes up for grabs, in terms of its electoral vote haul. And while Mr Biden has a few other paths to victory, should he lose Florida, it will be very tough for the President to win without it.

 

GEORGIA (16 electoral votes)

Current margin: Trump +0.4

Biden's best margin: Biden +2

Trump's best margin: Trump +3

The very tight polling in Georgia, which has shown Mr Biden ahead at times, might prove to be a mirage for the Democrats.

The Republican candidate has won this state in eight of the last nine elections, the sole exception being Bill Clinton all the way back in 1992. Mr Trump beat Ms Clinton by 5 per cent four years ago.

Georgia is certainly polling like a swing state, but its recent history is more red than purple.

IOWA (6 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +1.4

Biden's best margin: Biden +2.1

Trump's best margin: Trump +3.5

You might recognise Iowa as the site of the first contest in each major party's primary process. Because of that unique position, it has a heck of a lot of influence when it comes to choosing the presidential nominees.

Its influence in the general election is smaller, due to its relatively small number of electoral votes, but in an extremely tight contest Iowa could be decisive.

The state has voted for the victorious candidate in each of the last four elections, going Republican and Democratic twice each. The polls this time suggest it is a toss-up.

MICHIGAN (16 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +9.4

Biden's best margin: Biden +9.4

Trump's best margin: Biden +2.6

Michigan was one of three "Rust Belt" states that delivered Mr Trump his surprise election win four years ago, thanks largely to his support among white working class voters.

Ms Clinton barely campaigned there, believing it to be a fairly safe Democratic state. It had gone blue in each of the previous six elections, and Mr Obama had beaten Mitt Romney by 10 per cent in 2012.

Mr Trump's margin of victory was a razor-thin 0.22 per cent, representing just 11,000 votes.

He has spent recent months feuding with Michigan's Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer over her handling of the pandemic.

The polls here show Mr Biden leading by a large margin.

 

MINNESOTA (10 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +6

Biden's best margin: Biden +10.7

Trump's best margin: Biden +3.7

Ms Clinton only won Minnesota by about 2 per cent four years ago, and the polls show Mr Biden up by mid-single digits there, so it certainly qualifies as a battleground state.

That said, like Georgia, its history suggests it is unlikely to deliver an upset.

Minnesota has voted Democratic in the last 11 elections. It was, in fact, the only state in the country to vote for Walter Mondale over Ronald Reagan in the 1984 landslide.

NEW HAMPSHIRE (4 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +10.7

Biden's best margin: Biden +5.7

Trump's best margin: Biden +4

A small and somewhat quirky state, New Hampshire was hotly contested in the early 2000s. Mr Bush won it in 2000, but lost it to John Kerry in 2004.

Since then, New Hampshire has gradually come to be seen as a swing state that leans a teensy bit Democratic. Mr Obama never had much trouble winning it.

Ms Clinton, on the other hand, won it by just 3000 votes in 2016, or 0.37 per cent.

Mr Biden's lead there has consistently been in the double digits.

NEVADA (6 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +4.6

Biden's best margin: Biden +6.2

Trump's best margin: Biden +4.5

This is another state Ms Clinton managed to win narrowly four years ago, despite her broader defeat in the election.

Before that, Nevada had gone with the victorious candidate in every election since 1980, earning it a reputation as a reliable bellwether. Those of you who watched The West Wing will remember the crucial role it played in one of the show's fictional elections.

Mr Trump has made a few campaign trips to Nevada, so he clearly feels it is in play, and he has been particularly vocal about mail-in voting there, implying (without evidence to back him up) that it will lead to massive fraud.

There hasn't been a heck of a lot of polling, but as far as we can tell, Mr Biden holds a modest lead in the state.

 

NORTH CAROLINA (15 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +0.7

Biden's best margin: Biden +4.7

Trump's best margin: Trump +1

The more competitive of the two Carolinas is usually close, but almost always ends up voting Republican. The sole exception since 1980 came in Mr Obama's 2008 landslide, but even then, he only claimed the state by a fraction of 1 per cent.

North Carolina was one of only two states Mr Romney promptly won back for the Republicans four years later.

Mr Trump won it by 3 per cent, and the polls suggest it will be close again, with Mr Biden holding a very precarious lead.

OHIO (18 electoral votes)

Current margin: Trump +0.6

Biden's best margin: Biden +3.3

Trump's best margin: Trump +0.6

Ohio, with its chunky haul of 18 electoral votes, is widely seen as Mr Trump's strongest swing state. And that is very good news for him, given it is also the nation's most reliable bellwether.

It has voted with the winning candidate in 14 straight elections, going all the way back to Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Four years ago, Mr Trump beat Ms Clinton by 8 per cent in Ohio, and the polls show him leading Mr Biden there as well - albeit by a much, much thinner margin.

PENNSYLVANIA (20 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +3.8

Biden's best margin: Biden +8.5

Trump's best margin: Biden +3.6

In 2016, Mr Trump broke the Democrats' six-election winning streak in Pennsylvania, blowing up the idea that it had shifted from purple to solidly blue. It was pretty close though, with a margin of just 0.71 per cent.

The President has been hammering Mr Biden on fracking, which is a big issue in the state, accusing him of wanting to ban it. And a blunder from the Democrat in their final presidential debate, when he said he would "transition away" from the oil industry by 2025, could hurt him in Pennsylvania as well.

That said, Mr Trump has never come close to leading in the polling average there.

TEXAS (38 electoral votes)

Current margin: Trump +2.6

Biden's best margin: Trump +0

Trump's best margin: Trump +4.4

Winning deep-red Texas has long been a bit of a pipe dream for the Democrats, and it is likely no different this time around, but a period of surprisingly strong polling for Mr Biden there has technically thrown it into the swing state column.

Throughout July and August, Mr Biden pulled virtually even with Mr Trump in Texas, which has voted Republican in each the last 10 elections.

Mr Biden has faded since then, and you'd have to think Mr Trump will win it comfortably, just as he did four years ago.

Still, do keep an eye on Texas. If some monumental upset were to happen, the election would be all but over.

VIRGINIA (13 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +11.7

Biden's best margin: Biden +11.7

Trump's best margin: Biden +9.7

Virginia is a diverse state, with an interesting mix of demographics. It includes the heavily Democratic outer suburbs of Washington D.C., a large number of Republican-leaning military personnel, and some more rural areas as well.

It has been a bit of a streaky state in presidential elections. Virginia went Republican 10 times in a row between 1968 and 2004, before turning into a comfortable win for the Democrats in the last three contests.

Ms Clinton beat Mr Trump by 5 per cent in 2016, and there are no signs of a swing towards the President in Virginia since then.

WISCONSIN (10 electoral votes)

Current margin: Biden +5.5

Biden's best margin: Biden +6.7

Trump's best margin: Biden +3.5

Finally, we come to the last of the Rust Belt states that made Mr Trump President in 2016.

He was the first Republican since Mr Reagan to win Wisconsin, albeit by just 0.77 per cent.

 

This is another state where Mr Biden has consistently led by a margin in the mid-single digits, so it certainly remains up for grabs.

If these polling averages are reflected on election day - and I really cannot stress enough how big an "if" that is - then Mr Biden will win the electoral vote 310-228.

Originally published as Who is winning with one week left?