AILSA CHANG, HOST:
President Trump has seen his public support dropping recently with the country facing the coronavirus pandemic, a recession and now an outcry over systemic racism and police violence. Of course, the big question for the president is, how much will all of that weigh on voters in November when he is on the ballot alongside Democrat Joe Biden? NPR has a new analysis of the state of the presidential race. Our lead political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro is here to walk us through it.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
CHANG: So let's just start by saying that we are nearly five months away from the election, which you and I both know could end up feeling like five years.
CHANG: So given that, what can we say meaningfully jumps out at this point to you?
MONTANARO: Well, you're right. I mean, there's four and a half months to go until the presidential election, so things can and will change. We know that. I mean, think about where we were five months ago. We weren't even really talking much about coronavirus. But looking at the landscape right now, it's clear that the political ground has really shifted beneath Trump's feet these last few months. I mean, majorities have disapproved of his handling of coronavirus, race relations, and he's slipped in national polls against Democrat Joe Biden, and we're seeing that he's slipped in key states like Michigan.
You know, it's really given Biden a clear advantage in the Electoral College. And you know, it's a big deal because remember; Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes, but she lost the presidential election because of the Electoral College. Some estimates say this time Biden could win the popular vote by as much as 5 million votes and still lose, so it's really important to, you know, zero in on these states.
So here's what we found. Right now, based on our on-the-ground reporting, demographic and voting trends and, to a degree, polling, Biden has a 238 to 186 advantage over Trump if you add up all the states that are likely or leaning toward each candidate. And remember; you need 270 electoral votes to win the presidency, so Biden's still short. And he still would need to win in some other places that Trump won in 2016.
CHANG: OK. Let's talk about some of those places. How many states are considered truly competitive at this point?
MONTANARO: Right now, it looks like the election is going to be fought in basically just 16 states. Eight of those are toss-ups, meaning there is no clear advantage for either candidate and could go one way or the other. It's fascinating because if you look at in terms of population, the election's really likely going to be fought in states with less than half the country's population. The toss-up states represent less than a quarter of the country's population, so a lot of political power concentrated in just a handful of places.
One place to look at where Trump won last time but is losing ground - like I said before - notably, Michigan. He's down - Trump is down double digits in recent polls. That's critical because if that trend continues in the upper Midwest - places like Minnesota, which is leaning toward Biden, Wisconsin and further east, Pennsylvania, both of those are toss-ups - Biden has a real path to the White House by rebuilding what was known as the blue wall. Those would put him over 270 if he gets them all and holds all the states that Clinton won in 2016.
But if you don't want to look at polls because some state ones in Michigan and Wisconsin in particular were wrong in 2016, look at the candidates' and campaigns' body language. Look at Trump, for example. He sort of walked through what he sees as the battleground when he talked about where he wants to hold rallies. Let's listen.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to be coming into Florida, do a big one in Florida, big one in Texas. They're all going to be big. We're going to Arizona. We're going to North Carolina at the appropriate time.
CHANG: Well, those are all Republican states, so what does that tell us, real quick?
MONTANARO: They're all states that Trump won last time. He's very much on defense. His campaign had talked about expanding into states like Minnesota and Colorado. But that's not part of the conversation. In a real way right now, they're leaning toward Biden.
CHANG: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro.
MONTANARO: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.