Political News

Biden crosses 270 threshold in CNN's Electoral College outlook for first time

Posted October 7, 2020 7:03 p.m. EDT

— Joe Biden is surging in the battle for the White House with less than four weeks to go until Election Day.

In our latest Electoral College outlook, the Democratic presidential nominee crosses the 270 threshold for the first time this year. If you add up the states that are currently rated as solidly in his camp (203 electoral votes) and those leaning in his direction (87 electoral votes), it brings his total to 290 electoral votes.

As President Donald Trump remains infected with coronavirus and absent from the campaign trail, his campaign finds itself in its worst political position since the start of the campaign season. The President had a disastrous debate performance last week in what was one of his last best chances to turn things around before millions of Americans began casting their ballots.

It only got worse from there, when his response to contracting Covid-19 was to tell the country not to worry about it and demonstrate a brazen lack of leadership by removing his mask on a White House balcony overlooking the South Lawn for all the world to see -- precisely the move that nearly every scientist and expert says goes against promoting the best weapon we currently have to combat the virus.

The Trump campaign also finds itself at a significant competitive disadvantage with the Biden campaign when it comes to money to spend on critical TV ads in the homestretch -- exactly the moment when a campaign wants to maximize spending to open as many paths to 270 as possible.

Build your own road to 270 electoral votes with CNN's interactive map.

Meanwhile, the former vice president appears to have built back up that so-called blue wall across the Midwest that Trump busted through in 2016 to secure his victory.

Since our last Electoral College outlook, there have been no fewer than eight polls that meet CNN's reporting standards out of Pennsylvania -- a critical battleground state for either candidate's path to 270 electoral votes. Biden never held less than a 5-percentage point lead in any of them and his support level was never below 49%. We are moving Pennsylvania back to Leans Democratic.

Pennsylvania has been a prime target for both campaigns this cycle, with Biden spending $48 million in the Keystone State compared with $21 million for the Trump effort.

When outside groups are factored in, Pennsylvania has seen $135 million in TV ad spending -- the second-highest total for any state, behind Florida.

Beyond Biden's supercharged strength with women, independents, college-educated voters and non-White voters, he continues to remain competitive with the President among men, Whites and seniors, blunting the crucial advantages Trump had with those groups in 2016.

On the map, that translates into more than just pulling Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin back into their Democratic-leaning positions after Trump won them narrowly four years ago. It means a state like Iowa, which Trump won by nearly 10 percentage points, is well within reach for Biden, so we have moved that one from Leans Republican to pure Battleground status.

The Trump campaign canceled its ad reservation of about $800,000 in Iowa this week, according to the ad-tracking firm CMAG. It's the third consecutive week the President's campaign will be without television ads in the Hawkeye State.

While the Trump campaign is off the air in Iowa, the Biden campaign is spending $565,000 there this week.

Between now and Election Day, both campaigns have more than $2 million reserved in the state. And Preserve America, the Trump-supporting super PAC, has another $2 million reserved.

As always, we base this outlook on public and private polling, the strategic bets the campaigns are making with tens of millions of advertising dollars, where Trump and Biden and their top-level surrogates are spending the bulk of their virtual and in-person time, and on conversations with state-based and national political operatives, elected officials and advisers to both campaigns.

In this current outlook, we also have moved the single electoral vote that gets awarded to the winner of Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District to leaning in Biden's direction. Both Republicans and Democrats point to Maine's 2nd Congressional District as the more truly competitive of those two battles for single electoral vote districts.

For his path to 270 electoral votes, Trump starts with a solid base of 125, from 20 states that are most likely to be uncontested. When you combine that base of solid states with the additional 38 electoral votes from Texas that are currently leaning in his direction, it brings Trump's total to 163 electoral votes -- 107 away from reelection.

That leaves us with five states and one congressional district worth a total of 85 electoral votes that are the current toss-ups on the map: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine's 2nd Congressional District, North Carolina and Ohio.

If Trump is to have a successful reelection effort, it has to start with running the table with all of them and then still finding at least 22 electoral votes currently leaning toward Biden and bringing them back into his fold.

Solid Republican:

Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Missouri (10), Montana (3), Nebraska (4), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Utah (6), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3) (125 total)

Leans Republican:

Texas (38) (38 total)

Battleground states:

Florida (29), Georgia (16), Iowa (6), Maine 2nd Congressional District (1), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18) (85 total)

Leans Democratic:

Arizona (11), Colorado (9), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), Nebraska 2nd Congressional District (1), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Pennsylvania (20), Wisconsin (10) (87 total)

Solid Democratic:

California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), DC (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine (3), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), New York (29), Oregon (7), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Virginia (13), Washington (12) (203 total)

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.