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Here's how the early battleground map has opened up for Joe Biden

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 campaign rally in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP file

WASHINGTON — Maybe Joe Biden isn’t leading President Trump by 7 points in Arizona, as one poll showed yesterday.

But Biden has been ahead of Trump in every Arizona poll released this year. And that Arizona advantage opens up more paths to 270 electoral votes for Biden — especially those that don’t require him to win Wisconsin.

Just take a look at these scenarios, assuming a battleground map with the toss-up states being Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (and giving Trump the single electoral votes in Maine's second district and Nebraska's second district):

Biden wins AZ, MI, PA — but loses WI, FL and NC

Biden 279 electoral votes, Trump 259

Biden wins AZ and FL — but loses MI, NC, PA and WI

Biden 272, Trump 266

Biden wins AZ, NC and MI — but loses FL, PA and WI

Biden 274, Trump 264

And speaking of North Carolina, where Trump and Biden are essentially tied right now, the Tar Heel State opens even more paths to 270 for the former vice president.

Biden wins MI, PA and NC — but loses AZ, NH and WI

Biden 279, Trump 259

And with 167 days until Election Day and in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic, this is the political reality right now: We’re talking about viable paths for Biden — backed up by poll numbers — in Arizona and North Carolina. (And you might want to start including Georgia in this conversation, too.)

But for Trump, we’re not talking about him putting Minnesota or New Mexico or Virginia (which he mentioned yesterday) in serious play. At least right now.

What Arizona and North Carolina have in common for Dems is a pretty strong ticket — up and down the ballot — where we’re going to see competitive Senate and gubernatorial races as well.

The numbers from Wisconsin are in

Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Elections Commission released its report on voting from its April 7 contest right smack in the middle of the state’s stay-at-home order from the coronavirus.

Some of the results, per NBC’s Shaquille Brewster:

  • 1,157,599 votes were cast by absentee ballots (74 percent), versus 397,664 cast on Election Day (26 percent).
  • 79,054 ballots were cast and counted due to a judge’s extension of the absentee-ballot deadline to April 13. (Trump’s winning margin in Wisconsin in 2016? Try nearly 23,000.)
  • 2,659 absentee ballots came after that April 13 deadline and weren’t counted.

Meanwhile, in Texas, a federal judge “opened a path for a massive expansion in absentee voting in Texas by ordering Tuesday that all state voters, regardless of age, qualify for mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic,” the Texas Tribune writes.

And President Trump tweeted this morning that Michigan was breaking the law by sending absentee ballots to every registered voter in the state. (In fact, it isn’t against the law to send absentee ballots to every voter — as other states have done this during the pandemic).

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,543,036: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 21,040 more than yesterday morning.)

92,772: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,509 more than yesterday morning).

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

$45 billion: How much government spending on unemployment rose from February to April.

60 pages: The length of the latest CDC document, offering the most extensive guidelines yet on reopening.

Half of the 4,000 needed: The number of contract tracers who have been hired so far in Texas.

More than 900: The number of migrant children who have been deported after reaching the United States in March and April under the administration’s pandemic policy.

90,000: The number of tweets — including many promoting coronavirus conspiracy theories — issued from 200 diplomatic and state-run media accounts in China since the start of April.

2020 Vision: Biden mocks Trump’s use of hydroxychloroquine

In a Yahoo News town hall yesterday, Joe Biden was asked about Trump’s admitted use of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative to possible COVID-19 exposure.

Here was Biden’s answer, per NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor: “Just like saying maybe if you injected Clorox into your blood, it may cure you. Come on. What is he doing? What in God's name is he doing?”

Ad watch from Ben Kamisar

Big Sky Country is quickly turning into Big Money Country.

Top outside groups battling for the Senate have announced significant Montana investments in recent days, as Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock tries to dethrone Republican Sen. Steve Daines in the state’s Senate race.

Majority Forward, the nonprofit ally of the Democratic super PAC Senate Majority PAC, announced on Tuesday it’s planning a $3 million ad buy in the state slated to start in June.

Just one day earlier, the Washington Examiner reported that the Senate GOP super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, is booking $10 million in fall advertising time.

That movement is the latest evidence that Montana could become another headache for Republicans, who are disproportionately playing defense across the 2020 Senate map. And it’s proof of how important the last-minute decision by Bullock to run has been to Democrats looking to spread Republicans thin and flip the Senate.

For those of you keeping score, in their initial announcements, the NRSC earmarked $2.8 million in TV dollars for the state compared to the DSCC’s $5.2 million.

On yesterday’s Trump-GOP Senate lunch

During the Senate GOP’s lunch with President Trump yesterday, there was a bit of policy discussion on what the GOP would look for (and not support) in a coronavirus relief package — our Hill team reports:

On extending expanded unemployment insurance (a Democratic priority), senators said the conversation was brief, and that the president agrees they won't be including it in a next package. Texas Sen. John Cornyn said, “You can’t pay people more not to work than to work. And so we certainly are not going to take up the provision in Speaker Pelosi’s bill that continues that policy, it’s the opposite of what we ought to do.”

But it seems that some of the lunch focused on a passing laundry list of grievances — even though it the senators couldn’t agree on who the president was angered at during the lunch: Cornyn said he casted frustration at the CDC director that “tests weren’t reliable.” And Louisiana Sen. Cassidy summed it up as a bit of this, a bit of that:

NBC: "Was he critical of the early CDC response generally?"

Cassidy: "That was a half of a liner. Kind of in the context of a long paragraph. This and this and this and this and this and somewhere — one of the 'this's' was a half a line about that."

NBC: "So it was just a pep rally then?"

Cassidy: "No, it wasn't a pep rally. But I know what you mean. There's a whole kind of array of things. There's no central theme."

The Lid: You’re a peach

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in on the state of play in Georgia’s Senate big 2020 contests.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Joe Biden sailed to an overwhelming win in the Oregon primary.

Senate Democrats are still looking for answers on how agencies are cooperating with Republican-led investigations compared with probes into the president.

A construction firm that has often been praised by the president has won a $1.3 billion border wall contract.

A Ukrainian lawmaker linked to Rudy Giuliani has released tapes of Joe Biden’s phone calls with former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko.

There’s yet another twist in the Michael Flynn case, with Flynn’s attorneys now turning to a federal appeals court to request an order asking the judge handling the case to dismiss it.

A GOP candidate in a competitive House district is coming under fire for controversial tweets.

The FEC’s nine months without a quorum is finally coming to an end.