Breaking News

The 2020 Battleground States: Updates on the Swing Voters

Sept. 13, 2020, 3:00 a.m. ET

Sept. 13, 2020, 3:00 a.m. ET

By Trip Gabriel

Joseph R. Biden Jr. during a campaign visit to Yeadon, Pa., in June. Joseph R. Biden Jr. during a campaign visit to Yeadon, Pa., in June.Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Two polls in the key states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin released in the last week suggest how President Trump’s appeal to one of the most crucial voting blocs of 2020 — suburbanites — can play two ways.

In Pennsylvania, the president is trailing Joseph R. Biden Jr. in the vote-rich suburbs of Philadelphia. But in Wisconsin, Mr. Trump is ahead in the equally important suburbs of Milwaukee.

Two decades ago, both states’ suburban counties were Republican strongholds. But demographic changes have played out at different paces in the two states, each of which was key to Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016 and will help decide his fate this year.

In suburban Philadelphia, Mr. Biden led Mr. Trump 62 percent to 34 percent among likely voters in an NBC News/Marist College poll. That 28-point gap represents an improvement for Mr. Biden over Hillary Clinton four years ago, when she carried the same suburban counties by 13 points, according to exit polling. Suburbia cast more than one in five votes in Pennsylvania in 2016.

Meanwhile, in the region outside Milwaukee including both inner suburbs and exurbs, Mr. Trump was favored 48 percent to 38 percent over Mr. Biden in a Marquette Law School Poll. (A New York Times poll of Wisconsin published this weekend found similar support for the candidates in the suburban Milwaukee region.) The three suburban counties closest to Milwaukee have long supported Republican candidates by landslides.

Changes reshaping the electorate in the suburbs of Philadelphia — more nonwhite, more highly educated and younger residents — are also taking place in the suburbs of Milwaukee, but at a far slower pace, one that has made Wisconsin’s suburbs resistant to an increasingly Democratic tilt of suburbia across the country.

“They have not become as heterogeneous as, say, the Philadelphia suburbs,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette poll.

Sept. 13, 2020, 2:00 a.m. ET

Sept. 13, 2020, 2:00 a.m. ET

By Kay Nolan

Andrea Ruffier, 26, described herself as “conservative economically” but “toward the left” on social issues. Andrea Ruffier, 26, described herself as “conservative economically” but “toward the left” on social issues.Credit…Sara Stathas for The New York Times

Wisconsin has 10 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.8 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — Andrea Ruffier is one of the undecided voters who could help determine the winner in Wisconsin, a state both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden see as a key to victory.

“I’m really unexcited to have to go the polls this year,” said Ms. Ruffier, 26, who lives in Oak Creek, a suburb of Milwaukee, and was shopping in Wauwatosa on Wednesday. “I know I’m going to vote, but I haven’t decided which way.”

Ms. Ruffier, who described herself as “conservative economically” but “toward the left” on social issues, said her top concerns were women’s health rights; improving K-12 education; and helping people out of poverty. But she said she didn’t know either candidate’s stance on those issues because she gets turned off by speeches and political ads that focus on criticizing opponents and name-calling.

“I care about the person running and their ideas,” said Ms. Ruffier, who works as a day trader and said she didn’t trust political parties. “Trump, as a person, is very difficult to like, with the things that he says, but Biden, I feel, is going to be like a puppet and not really have his own ideas.”

A Marquette University Law School Poll published Wednesday found that more than 10 percent of likely voters in Wisconsin had not committed to either Mr. Trump or Mr. Biden. Four percent said they would vote for the Libertarian Party candidate, Jo Jorgensen.

Mr. Biden had the support of 47 percent of likely voters in the poll, while 43 percent said they would vote for Mr. Trump — a difference within the poll’s margin of error.

The results suggest that in Wisconsin, a state Mr. Trump won in 2016 by less than one percentage point, independent and undecided voters could make the difference.

“Many independents — over 20 percent — say they don’t know enough about Joe Biden yet,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette poll.

Among them is Matt Kopsi, 35, an insurance manager from Greenfield, another Milwaukee suburb. “I’m really not familiar with what his whole platform is,” he said of Mr. Biden, adding, “He seems to blame Trump for things that are out of his control.”

“I’ve voted both ways. I really don’t care about the party system — I think it keeps us more divided than anything,” Mr. Kopsi added. “I voted for Obama, but I think I’ll vote for Trump again this time.”

Wisconsinites have been deluged lately with as many as 12 ads about the presidential campaign per local TV newscast. Though Democrats and allied groups slightly outspent their Republican counterparts on TV and radio in Wisconsin in the past week, pro-Trump ads appeared to outnumber pro-Biden ads on recent news broadcasts.

Many ads supporting the president claimed that Mr. Biden was “silent” on supporting the police or addressing violence, and was “anti-gun.” (Mr. Biden has called for more funding for community policing and has condemned rioting, looting and other violence.)

Ads supporting Mr. Biden promoted his promises to ensure health care access, protect Social Security and Medicare, fight climate change and “do what we should have done from the beginning” to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic.

For Courtney Bode, 37, a registered nurse from Milwaukee and an independent voter, Mr. Trump’s “mismanaged coronavirus response” has settled her vote for Mr. Biden. “I do feel Biden has come out with a strong stand on that,” she said.

Sept. 13, 2020, 1:00 a.m. ET

Sept. 13, 2020, 1:00 a.m. ET

By Kathleen Gray

Many supporters without masks cheered for President Trump at a campaign rally in Freeland, Mich., on Thursday. Many supporters without masks cheered for President Trump at a campaign rally in Freeland, Mich., on Thursday.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Michigan has 16 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 0.2 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

SAGINAW, Mich. — Michigan’s status as a critical battleground was on clear display last week as Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump brought their campaigns to the state that was decided by the smallest margin in 2016.

The locations chosen by the candidates were revealing about their strategies this fall — specifically, which voters they are trying to galvanize.

Mr. Biden picked a United Auto Workers headquarters office in Warren on Wednesday to talk about ways to ensure that manufacturing stays in the United States. The visit served as a reminder that Mr. Biden was vice president during much of the federal bailout of the domestic auto industry. It was also meant to bolster his chances in Macomb County, an enclave northeast of Detroit that voted for President Barack Obama twice, but turned hard for Mr. Trump in 2016.

“You’re going to have the best, most union-friendly president when I’m in the White House,” Mr. Biden told a small crowd of people, who wore masks and were socially distanced. A couple of dozen Trump supporters with signs and banners rallied outside the U.A.W. offices.

For Mr. Trump, an airport in Saginaw County was a logical stop. Saginaw and neighboring Bay County, both north of Flint, are blue-collar strongholds that had been reliable Democratic votes since 1988. But both counties flipped in 2016, helping fuel Mr. Trump’s victory by less than 11,000 votes over the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump’s stop at the airport in Freeland on Thursday night was almost a return to prepandemic campaigning, as thousands waited for hours in a light drizzle to see him. Trump flags flew and MAGA hats were on full display as the crowd stood shoulder to shoulder at a hangar and on the tarmac, and hundreds more watched the rally on a big video screen outside.

The size of the Trump audience stood in sharp relief to Mr. Biden’s events in Warren and Detroit a day earlier. The only hints that this was not a normal gathering were the temperature checks conducted on all attendees by Trump campaign volunteers; the tables with small bottles of hand sanitizer; and the sporadic appearance of masks on the faces of some in the crowd.

“I’ve heard so much about these rallies — I just wanted to see what one was like,” said Stephen Guentert, 52, a math teacher from Freeland who voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 and plans to again this year.

A right-leaning independent, Mr. Guentert has views that run counter to Republican Party ideology on issues like abortion and marijuana legalization, but said that’s not enough for him to support Democrats. “They’re just too far out there for me,” he said. “Too liberal, too extreme.”

Outside the rally, there were a few signs of discord. A mobile billboard truck sent by the Democratic National Committee blared the audio recording of Mr. Trump talking privately about the seriousness of the coronavirus around the time he was downplaying the dangers publicly. The audio, from early in the year, was released on Wednesday by the journalist Bob Woodward.

“Covid 19. Trump lied, Americans died,” the billboard read as the truck drove on the roads surrounding the airport.

Sept. 13, 2020, 12:00 a.m. ET

Sept. 13, 2020, 12:00 a.m. ET

By Patricia Mazzei

Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, stopped at an arepa restaurant in Miami on Thursday. Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic nominee for vice president, stopped at an arepa restaurant in Miami on Thursday.Credit…Saul Martinez for The New York Times

Florida has 29 electoral votes. In 2016, Trump won the state by 1.2 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated a Tossup.

MIAMI — Clad in a black mask, Kamala Harris dropped into an arepa joint near Miami on Thursday to do the sort of one-on-one campaigning that has been missing in Florida during the coronavirus pandemic.

She did not stay long at Amaize, a fast-casual Venezuelan restaurant in Doral, near Mr. Trump’s golf resort. But as she bumped elbows with a few diners — occupancy restrictions remained in place — cameras flashed and rolled, capturing the rare candidate sighting.

“Gracias, gracias,” she told a table with several Venezuelans. (The city of Doral has so many Venezuelan-Americans that it is nicknamed “Doralzuela.”)

The appearance by Ms. Harris, the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee, signaled an acknowledgment by the Democratic ticket that it has been slipping among Hispanic voters in Florida, the biggest presidential swing state. A spate of recent polls has shown the race in Florida tightening, as it usually does in a state often decided by tiny margins.

To remain competitive here, the Biden campaign cannot afford a big slide among Latinos, who voted for Hillary Clinton in huge numbers in 2016. Since then, however, Mr. Trump has consolidated support among Cuban-Americans in South Florida, who tend to lean Republican. The most obvious targets for the Biden campaign are non-Cuban Hispanics — Colombians, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans — who tend to lean Democratic but have been heavily courted by Republicans in recent years.

“Every community wants face time, which is really hard in the middle of Covid,” said State Senator Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat who has sounded the alarm that the Biden campaign needed to be more present in town. “The Republicans have a constant presence in media, a constant presence at events.”

Case in point: Though Ms. Harris’s visit to the restaurant was unannounced, a gaggle of Trump supporters showed up outside anyway. One of them, Mariela Jiménez, told reporters that “Kamala Harris represents communism and socialism,” deploying what has become a Republican insult in Florida against all Democrats since the 2018 election.

Ms. Harris’s trip dominated the local Spanish-language news, as the campaign undoubtedly hoped. But it was pitted against a “law and order” event held by the Trump campaign with retired police officers.

And when Ms. Harris gave the local Univision affiliate an interview, the question first highlighted on the evening news was about why a community of political exiles should not think of the party of Bernie Sanders as socialist.

“Because we’re not socialists,” Ms. Harris said with a laugh.

Sept. 12, 2020, 10:10 p.m. ET

Sept. 12, 2020, 10:10 p.m. ET

By Matt Furber

President Trump at a campaign rally in Mankato, Minn., last month. President Trump at a campaign rally in Mankato, Minn., last month.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Minnesota has 10 electoral votes. In 2016, Clinton won the state by 1.5 percentage points. In 2020, it’s rated Lean Democratic.

MINNEAPOLIS — To Paul Gazelka, a longtime practitioner of Minnesota Republican politics, Mr. Trump looks stronger politically in the state than he did in 2016, when he lost Minnesota by 1.5 percentage points.

And to Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer and an advocate for policing reforms, Mr. Biden is hardly a lock to carry the state, and Democrats need to be more shrewd about not playing into Mr. Trump’s hands on “law and order” issues.

Mr. Biden has led in polling of Minnesota, which no Republican presidential candidate has carried since Richard M. Nixon in 1972. But Mr. Gazelka and Ms. Levy Armstrong, both keen students of the state’s politics, said Mr. Trump had some new advantages this year.

“The biggest change is the blue-collar unions are coming to him in waves,” said Mr. Gazelka, the majority leader of the Republican-led State Senate. He attended a Trump campaign event in Duluth on Wednesday night featuring the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., which drew some miners and steelworkers.

“And, then, the lawlessness, and the mind-set by some in the Democratic Party of defunding the police, is frustrating a lot of people in the middle,” said Mr. Gazelka, who has opposed some proposals for curbs on the use of force by the police. (Mr. Biden does not support defunding the police and has condemned lawlessness and violence.)

Ms. Levy Armstrong said Mr. Trump’s “law and order” message was a powerful political tool in the wake of some rioting after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. Yet the protests against police brutality and racial injustice have been largely peaceful, she noted. Democrats risk losing focus on essential social justice messages when they get drawn into the law and order debate, she said, calling it a diversion from larger issues.

“I think the people who buy in to Trump’s rhetoric about restoring law and order were going to support him no matter what. But I think that Democrats have to be smarter and wiser than falling into the trap of the language that Donald Trump is using,” said Ms. Levy Armstrong, who is a former Minneapolis mayoral candidate.

“Given the current political landscape, which highlights fears and divisions along racial lines and significant tensions regarding police-community relations, there is no guarantee that Biden will win Minnesota,” she said.

Updated  Sept. 12, 2020

  • The Latest

    • President Trump has failed to erase Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lead across a set of key swing states, according to a poll conducted by The Times and Siena College.

  • Paths to 270

  • Voting Deadlines

  • Keep Up With Our Coverage

    • Get an email recapping the day’s news

    • Download our mobile app on iOS and Android and turn on Breaking News and Politics alerts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *