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The path to 270 is changing, fast

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: President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at The Queen in Wilmington, Del.
President-elect Joe Biden delivers remarks at The Queen in Wilmington, Del. on Nov. 9, 2020.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — In 2004, George W. Bush won Colorado by more than 4 percentage points and Virginia by 8 points, while winning the presidency by capturing Ohio by some 100,000 votes.

Sixteen years later — and with still not all the vote in — President-elect Joe Biden won Colorado by more than 13 points and carried Virginia by 10 points, while outgoing President Donald Trump appears to have won Ohio by 8 points for a second-straight cycle.

It’s all a reminder that electoral maps aren’t forever.

With changing demographics, education levels and political coalitions, how our states break in presidential elections aren’t set in stone.

The most surprising state outcome in 2020? Georgia, where Biden leads by 14,000 votes and where control of the U.S. Senate will be decided in January.

The other shift in the Sun Belt? Arizona, where local NBC reporter/anchor Brahm Resnik tells us that Trump is on track to be the first Republican in 72 years to lose Maricopa County.

The state that the political world continues to watch, but that still hasn’t flipped? Texas, where the GOP winning margin has dropped from nearly 16 points in 2012 and 9 points in 2016, to 5-6 points in 2020. (In a record-turnout election in the Lone Star State, there are just too many Republican voters for Democrats to overcome.)

And the former battlegrounds of 2000-2012 that no longer look like battlegrounds? Iowa and Ohio, where Trump is ahead by 8 points in both states.

As SmartPolitics notes, Biden carried only four Midwestern states — Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin — tying the mark for the lowest number of Midwestern states for a successful Democratic presidential nominee.

For Democrats, are we seeing the transition away from the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt?

The uncalled presidential states as of publication time

  • Arizona: Biden is ahead by 11,635 votes, 49.4 percent to 49.1 percent (99% in)
  • Georgia: Biden is ahead by 14,057 votes, 49.5 percent to 49.2 percent (99% in)
  • North Carolina: Trump is ahead by 73,256 votes, 50.0 percent to 48.7 percent (98% in)
  • Alaska: NBC News called it for Trump on Wednesday

Keeping it Klain and simple

President-elect Joe Biden made his first major staffing decision on Wednesday night when he chose longtime aide and Democratic operative Ron Klain as his chief of staff.

Klain served as Biden’s chief of staff in his first years as vice president and coordinated the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak.

“His deep, varied experience and capacity to work with people all across the political spectrum is precisely what I need in a White House chief of staff as we confront this moment of crisis and bring our country together again,” Biden said in a statement.

NBC’s Mike Memoli, Kristen Welker, Geoff Bennett and Dartunorro Clark report: “Biden’s decision to tap Klain as his chief of staff puts a veteran Washington insider with experience confronting a global health crisis at the helm of the President-elect’s West Wing. But it’s just the first of many senior hires to come, with transition officials saying a larger batch as many as 10 to 12 will come next week.”

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

5,208,810: Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote at the time of publication.

10,464,067: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 129,592 more than yesterday morning.)

242,954:The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,327 more than yesterday morning.)

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

65,368: The number of people currently hospitalized with coronavirus.

54: The number of days until the January 5 Senate runoffs.

69: The number of days until Inauguration Day.

Georgia Runoff Watch by Ben Kamisar

Fresh off snagging the top spot at the National Republican Senatorial Committee next cycle, Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott is hitting the airwaves in Georgia to blast Democrats ahead of the likely two runoffs there.

Scott’s new TV ad, unveiled on Twitter, features Scott talking directly to camera while criticizing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s call: “Now we take Georgia, then we change America.”

The Florida Republican uses those comments to nationalize the race, tying that call to a slew of liberal policies that the Georgia Democratic candidates don’t necessarily support, but that Republicans warn would be on the table in a Democratic-controlled Senate: “Reduce funding for police, eliminate employer-based health insurance, pack the Supreme Court, chip away at our religious freedom and gun rights.”

“Georgia, don’t let these radicals change America,” Scott says, before walking off screen.

Missing from the spot, any reference of the candidates involved (GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler is facing off against Democratic Rev. Raphael Warnock, while GOP Sen. David Perdue would face Democrat Jon Ossoff assuming Perdue can’t get back over 50 percent in the current vote count).

It’s a sign of how Republicans want to nationalize the race and maximize their base turnout in a state they may have lost on Election Day (NBC’s Decision Desk rates the Georgia presidential race too close to call with former Vice President Joe Biden leading as the state moves to a recount).

The Lid: How it happened

This week on The Lid, we’re looking inside the electorate at how Joe Biden got to 270. Don’t miss yesterday’s pod on one group that may raise more questions than answers for Democrats.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

President-elect Biden has picked longtime aide Ron Klain as his chief of staff.

Who else may be in Biden’s inner circle?

Here’s how key states flipped — even when few counties did.

No, dead people didn’t vote in Philadelphia.

Here’s a look at all the conspiracy theories out there about the election.

Georgia Republicans are shocked at the state’s blue turn, but the state’s two GOP senator hope to ride that anger to victory on January 5.

One sign the White House staff is privately eyeing the exits: They’re brainstorming executive orders for the final days of the administration.

Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump pulled their children from a D.C. Jewish school amid the coronavirus outbreaks at the White House.

What’s the deal with Parler?

Republicans are split over Trump’s complaints about CIA director Gina Haspel.

So ... What happens next for Mike Pence?