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Biden continues to lead in our latest battleground map

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Joe Biden
Joe Biden speaks at a drive-in rally on the Bucks County Community College's Lower Bucks campus in Bristol, Pa., on Oct. 24, 2020.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — With one week to go until Election Day, the NBC News Political Unit’s battleground map is pretty much unchanged from a month ago.

Joe Biden and the Democrats continue to be above 270 electoral votes, with Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all in the Lean Democratic category.

But there are two changes. One, Arizona moves from Lean Democratic to Toss Up, bringing Biden down from 290 electoral votes to 279.

Two, Texas moves from Lean Republican to Toss Up, bringing the electoral votes in President Trump’s column down from 163 to 125.

There are 134 electoral votes in the Toss Up category in our map, which is based on public polling, as well as our conversations with Democratic and Republican strategists following the presidential race.

The math for Trump and the Republicans is daunting, though not impossible: To get 270 electoral votes or more, Trump must win all of the Toss Up states, plus get at least 11 electoral votes from the Lean Democratic column.

Solid Democratic: California, Delaware, D.C., Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Washington (130 electoral votes)

Likely Democratic: Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia (82)

Lean Democratic: Nebraska 02, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (67)

Toss Up: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine 02, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas (134)

Lean Republican: N/A (0)

Likely Republican: Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, South Carolina and Utah (62)

Solid Republican: Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, West Virginia and Wyoming (63)

A reminder: Not all Likely, Lean and Toss Up states are created equally. Here are the Lean Democratic states in order of most likely to go Biden's way to least likely: Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska 02 and Pennsylvania.

And here are the Toss Up states in order from mostly likely to go Biden's way versus Trump's: Arizona, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Texas, Maine 02 and Ohio,

A final note here: We were torn on Arizona. Biden maintains his lead there, but the polling has tightened. And right now, it seems to be in a different place than Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which is why we’ve moved it to Toss Up.

Swing the Election: See how changes in voter turnout and support could shift the outcome of the 2020 election.

Biden maintains ad-spending advantage in the battleground states

Our look at the TV and radio ad spending in these battleground states helps tell the story why Biden is ahead of Trump, especially in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and even Pennsylvania. Here’s the breakdown from NBC’s Ben Kamisar:

Arizona: Biden and Trump both slightly boosted spending over the last week (Oct. 20-26), with Biden spending more than double Trump — $5.7 million to $2 million.GOP outside groups have tried to close the gap for Trump, but Democrats retained a significant edge with help from their outside groups, too.

Florida: Biden increased spending here, while Trump decreased spending week-over-week— the Democrat spent three times as much as the Republican ($8.4 million to $2.8 million). Total spending for Republicans (campaigns + outside groups) is virtually stagnant, while total Democratic spending increased week-over-week by 23 percent.

Georgia: Directionally, both campaigns slightly increased their investment. But Biden spent almost three times Trump over that seven-day stretch, $1.7 million to less than $600,000.When you factor in outside groups, Republicans have a $500,000 edge.

Michigan: Biden has outspent Trump here every individual day since well before Labor Day, and it shows. Biden spent more than $4 million over the week, with Trump under $2 million. And when factoring in outside groups (including a big $4.7 million week for Future Forward), it’s a 3-to-1 advantage for the blue team.

North Carolina: Trump is benefitting from a big GOP outside-spending push. Biden spent $3.8 million last week to Trump’s $2.6, but that amounted to a weekly increase for both campaigns. When outside groups are included, the advantage goes to Team Trump by almost $3 million (or almost 40 percent).

Pennsylvania: Biden keeps increasing his spending to the moon, eclipsing $8 million in just one week, a number matched by the Democratic outside group Future Forward. With Trump spending just $1.4 million last week there, the total spending gap that week (when you factor in outside groups) was about $24 million to $8 million.

Texas: Biden has decreased his spending to about $600,000 for the week (and he’s getting outside help), while Trump and GOP outside groups were dark.

Wisconsin: A bloodbath similar to Pennsylvania, both on the candidate and outside group sides. Biden outspent Trump by about 10 times ($3 million to under $300,000). And including outside groups, Democrats hold a huge edge of $9 million to less than $4 million.Note: The Trump campaign was the 10th biggest spender in Wisconsin over past week.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

8,778,293: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 68,812 more than yesterday morning.)

226,920: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 485 more than yesterday morning.)

133.75 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

68 percent: The share of Americans who personally know someone who has been diagnosed with Covid-19.

More than 42,000: The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 nationally on Monday.

62,064,362: The number of Americans who have voted early, either by mail or in person, according to estimates by NBC News and TargetSmart

$15 million: The expected cost of a new pro-Biden ad blitz by Michael Bloomberg in Texas and Ohio.

85.58 percent: The share of USPS first-class mail that was delivered on time in the week ending October 16. That’s down 0.57 percent from the previous week, and significantly off from the USPS goal of around 95 percent.

52 to 48: The Senate vote to confirm Amy Coney Barrett.

30 days: The length of Barrett’s confirmation process.

Tweet of the day

Talking Policy with Benjy: Trump vs. Gov. Wolf

On Covid-19, Trump’s closing message is increasingly clear, with the president accusing reporters and public officials expressing concern about the virus of faking it to make it look bad, and claiming they’ll stop as soon as the election is over, NBC’s Benjy Sarlin writes.

For better and worse, the final days are as pure a distillation of Trump as it gets: If there’s a story in the news, then it must be about him, and if the story is bad politically, then it must be a conspiracy to hurt him. Unfortunately, the story happens to be a record-breaking surge of coronavirus.

Trump offered a jarring example in Pennsylvania, where he told voters at a rally that he planned to snub their Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s pleas for aid, partly because Wolf objected to his campaign holding large events that went against public health guidance. Once again, he claimed Wolf was merely pretending to be concerned about the virus ravaging the country and forcing swaths of Europe back into lockdowns and predicted he would lift the state’s health restrictions as soon as the election ended.

“I'm going to remember it, Tom: 'Hello Mr. President, this is Governor Wolf, I need help, I need help,’” Trump said, imagining a future phone call. "You know what, these people are bad."

Wolf is not on the ballot, however, which means Trump is effectively telling his own supporters that a vote for the president is a vote to decrease their state’s clout in a pandemic should he win. He’s made similar threats to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, another swing state leader not up for re-election in 2020.

In each case Trump is asking voters to adopt his perspective and turn out to avenge perceived slights on his behalf, rather than framing the election through their eyes. Trump’s often managed to channel his supporters’ grievances through his personal conflicts and a victory is not out of the question. But he’s making it clear now: If you renew the Trump Show, there’s only one main character, period.

2020 Vision: All we need is just a little patience

Americans are ready to go to bed on Election Night without knowing who won the presidential election, according to our latest NBC News|SurveyMonkey Weekly Tracking Poll. The new data show that 68 percent of adults say they expect to know the winner of the presidential election sometime after next Tuesday.

But how long after is up for debate.

Thirty-eight percent of adults say that they expect to know the winner within a few days; 19 percent say within a few weeks; and 11 percent say it will take longer than a few weeks.

Despite our warnings that 2020 is an example of an election season, rather than an election day, 30 percent of adults still expect to know who won the election on Nov. 3. And that could happen — if it’s a blowout election. But it’s far more likely it will take some time to count the record number of mail-in and early ballots, especially when key states like Pennsylvania can’t start counting their early votes until the morning of Nov. 3.

On the campaign trail today

Biden campaigns in Georgia, hitting Warm Springs and Atlanta. Trump stumps in Wisconsin and Nebraska. Barack Obama speaks in Orlando, Fla. And Kamala Harris is in Nevada.

And here’s a look at the Trump-vs.-Biden announced schedule over the next several days.

Trump: Wisconsin and Nebraska (Tuesday), Arizona (Wednesday).

Biden: Georgia (Tuesday), Florida (Thursday), Iowa and Wisconsin (Friday), Michigan (Saturday)

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Here’s what you need to know about yesterday’s Supreme Court decision on when votes must be received in Wisconsin.

Republicans are betting that Democrats ultimately won’t expand the Supreme Court.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows is under fire from many of his colleagues.

Black voters over 65 are at the heart of Biden’s coalition. Here’s why.

The Trump administration is expected to announce that Medicare and Medicaid will cover the out-of-pocket costs for those receiving a Covid vaccine.