Trump, Biden and the road to 270 electoral votes

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden talks with union leaders after taking photographs outside the AFL-CIO headquarters in Harrisburg, Pa., Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

WAYZATA, Minn. – For such a volatile year, the White House race between President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden has been remarkably consistent.

With Election Day just eight weeks away, Biden is maintaining the same comfortable lead in most national polls that he enjoyed through the summer. He also has an advantage, though narrower, in many of the battleground states that will decide the election. Trump remains in striking distance, banking on the intensity of his most loyal supporters and the hope that disillusioned Republicans ultimately swing his way.

Still, both parties are braced for the prospect of sudden changes ahead, particularly as Trump makes an aggressive pitch to white suburban voters focused on safety and fear of violent unrest. It’s unclear how well his rhetoric will resonate, but Democrats insist it can’t be ignored, especially in the upper Midwest.

That’s especially true in Minnesota, a state that hasn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1972. Democrats there say they’re increasingly concerned that the state is genuinely in play this year.

“Trump can win Minnesota,” said Rep. Dean Phillips, who in 2018 became the first Democrat to win his suburban Minneapolis district since 1960. “It’s real. It’s absolutely real.”

While Trump’s campaign is touting a play for Minnesota as a way to expand the electoral map, the president is playing defense in a host of the other battleground states he needs in order to secure the 270 Electoral College votes to keep the White House. Biden’s campaign is laser-focused on the states in the Midwest and close by that Trump flipped in 2016 -- Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania -- and also making a robust play for Arizona, a state that hasn’t backed a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996.

Biden is also redoubling his focus on Florida, the biggest prize among the perennial battlegrounds and a state that would virtually block Trump’s reelection if it swings Democratic. Biden’s allies hoped the devastating toll of the pandemic would put them in a strong position there, but a poll released on Tuesday found voters were closely divided. Kamala Harris, Biden’s running mate, will make the campaign’s first in-person appearance in Florida on Thursday.

Beyond Florida, recent polls suggest close races in Pennsylvania and North Carolina, while a Fox News poll conducted after the recent national conventions gave Biden an advantage in Wisconsin. Polls conducted earlier in the summer also suggested a Biden lead in Michigan. Another post-convention Fox News poll found a Biden advantage in Arizona.