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Portrait of an election: US race boils down to 6 swing states

  • Published at 11:20 am November 2nd, 2020
Joe Biden
Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden puts on his make after speaking at United Auto Workers Union Headquarters, in Warren, Michigan on September 9, 2020 AFP

All of this year's top swing states -- Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona -- went to Trump in 2016

The US election on Tuesday is boiling down to a handful of battleground states that Joe Biden must flip in order to snatch the White House from President Donald Trump.

All of this year's top swing states -- Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona -- went to Trump in 2016, including four that had voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2012.

In a sign of how critical they are, Trump travelled to three of them -- Michigan, North Carolina and Florida -- on Sunday alone, while Biden held two events in Philadelphia.

The Democratic challenger leads by an average of 3.2 percentage points in the battlegrounds, according to the RealClearPolitics (RCP) poll aggregate.

Should the remaining 44 states vote as they did four years ago, Biden could flip just the two biggest battlegrounds, Florida and Pennsylvania, and win. 

Here is a look at the top swing states:


Biden's birth state is the largest at play in the Rust Belt, a north-central region marked by industrial decline over the past decade.

Trump volunteers are swarming the state, including city suburbs where they are canvassing door-to-door.

Pennsylvania has multiple socioeconomic regions and Biden, whose campaign is largely sticking to public health guidelines by organizing primarily online, has poured ad resources into the state.

The state's big cities will vote heavily for Biden, while the rural west and conservative central Pennsylvania are committed to Trump. The suburbs and the state's northeast will be critical.

RCP average: Biden leads by 4.3 percentage points


Michigan very narrowly tipped for Trump in 2016 and it is being fiercely contested this year.

Trump has visited the Great Lakes state touting an American comeback, but its voters are concerned about the pandemic's impact on the economy, and the president's response.

Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer has clashed with the president, and her enforced lockdowns have angered conservatives.

Gun-toting protestors staged demonstrations outside the state capitol this summer and members of a right-wing group were arrested recently for plotting to kidnap the governor.

RCP average: Biden leads by 6.1 percentage points


Democrat Hillary Clinton opted against campaigning in America's dairyland in 2016, and voters punished her for it. 

This year, Democrats made a point of highlighting Wisconsin, locating their national convention there last month, although the gathering moved online over coronavirus concerns.

Trump and Biden have campaigned in the state, the president as recently as Friday. Vice President Mike Pence and Biden running mate Kamala Harris have also visited, and First Lady Melania Trump hosted an event Saturday.

RCP average: Biden leads by 6.6 percentage points


The largest of the swing states anchors the Sun Belt, the band of states across the US South and Southwest that is rapidly growing in population, and features agriculture and military industry and large numbers of retirees.

Republicans are mounting a fierce defence here, with Democrats accusing them of actively suppressing the vote, particularly in minority communities.

The state's huge Latino population will be key, and polls show them aligned with the Democratic ticket less than in 2016.

Most experts say Florida is a Trump firewall; if it's breached, Trump likely loses the White House.

RCP average: Biden leads by 0.8 percentage points

North Carolina

This traditionally conservative state went to Trump by three percentage points four years ago, but both parties acknowledge it is now too close to call. 

North Carolina's governor is a popular Democrat who has won praise for his balanced response to the pandemic. 

Republicans based their national convention here last month, although it was largely online, and Trump visited Sunday.

RCP average: Biden leads by 0.3 percentage points


Arizona has been a Republican stronghold for decades, but its electorate is changing, with a growing Latino community and an influx of more liberal Californians.

Conservative voters appreciate Trump's efforts to restrict immigration and build a wall on the border with Mexico.

But Trump has hurt his prospects by repeatedly denigrating the late senator John McCain, who represented Arizona for decades in Washington and still looms large over the state's politics.

RCP average: Biden leads by 1.1 percentage points

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