Recent polling in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin suggests Donald Trump is trailing 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in many of the midwestern states that propelled the president to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016 by razor thin margins.
Mr Trump’s 2016 triumphs in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which he won by a combined 77,744 votes, were enough to swing the electoral college in his favour even though he lost the nationwide popular tally by nearly 3m votes.
The consensus among political experts is Mr Trump must build a firewall around the Midwest if he is to win a second term.
That wall appears flimsy recently, as Mr Trump has faced criticism over his handling of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and his militant response to the anti-police-brutality protests that have swept the nation after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month.
In Michigan, Mr Biden led Mr Trump by 12 percentage points — 53 per cent to 41 per cent — in a new poll of 600 likely voters released on Sunday by EPIC-MRA.
Mr Biden’s lead is outside the poll’s margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points and is up from a six-point advantage he maintained over the president from the same polling company in January.
FiveThirtyEight rates EPIC-MRA’s accuracy B+, according to its pollster ratings database, which analyses the methodology and historical accuracy of each firm’s polls.
In Wisconsin, a Fox News poll released last week showed Mr Biden with a 9-point edge among registered voters, outside the survey’s margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points.
The Fox News poll has an A/B rating from FiveThirtyEight, historically skewing towards Democratic candidates by 1.4 points.
Even Ohio — where Mr Trump beat Ms Clinton, 51.7 per cent to 43.6 per cent — now appears in play for Mr Biden, who led the president by 2 points in another Fox News poll from last week, within the survey’s margin of error.
The US Midwest is not a political monolith, despite many states’ traditional representation as enclaves for the white working class.
While each state has within its borders several industrial-era boomtowns — Youngstown, Ohio, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Green Bay, Wisconsin, to name a few — whose local economies were kneecapped in recent decades by automation and the outsourcing of jobs to countries with cheaper labour costs, millions of urban, suburban and rural voters live in each state.
Mr Trump defeated Ms Clinton by 10,704 votes in Michigan in 2016, less than 0.25 percentage points. In Wisconsin, he edged her out by 22,748, a roughly 0.75 per cent margin. And in Pennsylvania, Mr Trump won by 44,292, again a roughly 0.75 percentage point edge.
The president has indicated he is relying on a “silent majority” of voters to carry him to victory again in 2020.
But recent polling suggests his rhetoric on race relations and his views and strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic — the two hottest issues in the US at this juncture of the campaign — do not represent any such majority of people even in key midwestern states like Wisconsin and Ohio.
Asked who they believed would do a better job on race relations between Mr Biden and Mr Trump, 53 per cent of Wisconsinites chose Mr Biden, whereas just 31 per cent chose Mr Trump, according to last week’s Fox News poll.
On Covid-19, 50 per cent said they’d trust Mr Biden more, compared to 36 per cent for Mr Trump.
The edge for Mr Biden on those same questions was similar in Fox News’ Ohio poll, though the differences between the two candidates were slightly less pronounced.
Mr Trump is not dead in the water in the Midwest, though.
He still held an edge in Ohio on the economy and immigration, according to Fox News, two lynchpin issues of his messaging strategy and political touchpoints that are very important to his conservative base.
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