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Trump narrows the battleground deficit, but Biden remains above 270 electoral votes

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: A man walks out of the Washington county Democratic office with a yard sign for Presidential candidate Joe Biden in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.
A man walks out of the Washington county Democratic office with a yard sign for Presidential candidate Joe Biden in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Last month, we said that when Joe Biden is leading a presidential race — consistently — by double digits nationally, it shouldn’t be surprising to see him exceed 300 electoral votes in election projections.

And now that some of those same national polls are more in the 7- to 8-point range, it’s not surprising that Biden’s lead is lower than 300 electoral votes, but higher than the 270 needed to win.

That’s where we have Biden versus Trump in our second battleground map of 2020, which is based on public and private polling, as well as conversations with strategists watching the presidential race.

Biden is at 290 electoral votes, Trump is at 163 and 85 are in the Toss Up category. Our August battleground map was Biden 334, Trump 125 and Toss Up 79.

The big changes: We moved Florida and North Carolina from Lean Democratic to Toss Up (given the polling that has narrowed in both states), and we moved Texas from Toss Up to Lean Republican (given that national Democrats are no longer really advertising in the state).

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: Arizona, Nebraska 02, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (78).

Toss Up: Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maine 02, North Carolina and Ohio (85).

Lean Republican: Texas (38)

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, Nebraska 02, Arizona, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

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

As our friend Amy Walter recently wrote, "[A] seven or eight-point margin may not be enough to put Georgia or Texas into Biden's column. But, it's enough to get him the states he needs to hit 270. The closer the margin is to four points (like we saw back in March), the less helpful the national polls become.”

Biden outspent Trump by $18 million over the airwaves in a single week

The New York Times traces how President Trump lost his fundraising advantage to Biden.

And here’s one consequence of that development: Biden is now crushing Trump over the TV and radio airwaves with less than two months before the election.

According to ad-spending data from Advertising Analytics, the Biden campaign spent $24.5 million over the airwaves from Sept. 1-7, while the Trump campaign spent $6.2 million.

Team Trump got some serious help from the GOP Super PAC Preserve America, which narrowed the overall Team Biden (campaign + outside groups) versus Team Trump (campaign + outside groups) to $29.4 million to $23.3 million.

But here’s the advertising race over the past week in the Big Six battlegrounds when the spending is reduced to just the two main campaigns:

  • Arizona: Biden $2 million, Trump $0
  • Florida: Biden $5.1 million, Trump $1.9 million
  • Michigan: Biden $2.6 million, Trump $0
  • North Carolina: Biden $3.0 million, Trump $1.3 million
  • Pennsylvania: Biden $4.7 million, Trump $0
  • Wisconsin: Biden $2.2 million, Trump $670,000

Watching and counting the vote

On “Meet the Press” Sunday, one of us interviewed the secretaries of state/election heads for the battleground states of Michigan, North Carolina and Ohio — as part of NBC News’ continued look at how the vote will be conducted and counted in November.

Some of their observations:

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose: "[T]he thing that we're thinking about more than anything right now is poll worker recruitment. It takes 35,000 Ohioans to run in person Election Day. And so we're doing all we can to recruit those poll workers."

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections: "I think North Carolina's uniquely positioned [to deal with absentee and mail-in ballots] because we, you know, began sending out absentee-by-mail ballots on September 4th to nearly 600,000 absentee requests that we had received. We are ahead of the game in sending out those ballots. That's more time for voters to return them."

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson: "[W]e should be prepared for this to be closer to an Election Week, as opposed to an Election Day. I mean, the bottom line is we are not going to have the full results and a counting of all of our ballots on Election Night. We already know that. We've asked the legislature to make changes to the law to give us more ability to be prepared and count those ballots more efficiently. They have not acted for reasons that I don't fully, completely understand. But that said, we're increasing tabulators. We're increasing capacity to more efficiently and securely count those ballots. But I'm also laser-focused on accuracy. And if it takes a few extra days to ensure we have a full and accurate counting of the results of every race, that's what it's going to take."

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

6,327,499: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 154,471 more than Friday morning.)

190,374: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,563 more than Friday morning.)

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

Over 250,000: The number of coronavirus cases between August 2 and September 2 that could be linked to the Sturgis motorcycle rally, according to a new estimate by the Center for Health Economics & Policy Studies

42 percent: The share of Americans who say they’re more worried about businesses reopening too slowly, compared with 33 percent who said the same in July, according to a new NBC News| SurveyMonkey tracking poll.

More than $800 million: How much the Trump campaign and the party has spent of the $1.1 billion it raised from the beginning of 2019 through July.

More than 1,000: The number of Trump supporters who gathered for a pro-Trump “cruise rally” in Portland yesterday.

2020 Vision: Biden slams Trump over alleged military comments

Joe Biden slammed President Trump for comments he allegedly made about American service members several times over the last weekend, per NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor.

“As out of touch as Trump's language on the economy is, when it comes to veterans, he's downright un-American. I've never said that about a president ever, ever, ever. But calling those who have served, risked their lives, even gave their lives for our nation ‘losers and suckers.’ These are heroes,” Biden said.

Biden also flipped his language a bit on a coronavirus vaccine on Monday. Early in the day while in Pennsylvania, Biden told union members during a roundtable if he could “get a vaccine tomorrow, I’d do it. If it cost me the election, I’d do it.” By later in the day though, a caveat was added: “Only if it was completely transparent and other experts in the country could look at it. Only if we knew all of what went into it. Because so far nothing [Trump’s] told us has been true,” he said.

On the campaign trail today: President Trump travels to Florida, where he’ll talk about the environment, and then he heads to North Carolina, where he makes remarks this evening in Winston-Salem.

Tweet of the day

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch takes a look at the massive TV-ad spending disparity in today’s New Hampshire GOP Senate primary between Corky Messner and Dan Bolduc.

Bolduc, a decorated military and an advocate for treating PTSD, had initially been seen by many establishment Republicans as the kind of candidate who would give the party its best shot at challenging Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen. He’s backed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, as well as Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and the Senate Conservatives Fund.

But it was another military veteran, Corky Messner, who won the backing of President Trump and his former campaign manager, Cory Lewandowski, who had flirted with running for the seat himself, as well as Citizens United head David Bossie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.

Messner, backed by personal loans of almost $3.9 million to his campaign, has blanketed the airwaves for a more than 10-1 advantage over Bolduc — Messner has spent $870,000 on TV and radio ads this cycle compared to $79,000 for Bolduc, according to Advertising Analytics.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

In an exclusive interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen describes the president as a “cult leader.”

Trump is doubling down on his tough-on-crime message. But polls show it’s far from a slam dunk.

Sports teams are pushing for their arenas to be used as voting centers — but not all have been successful.

House Democrats are launching an investigation of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy over accusations that he reimbursed employees for political donations.

The president says he’s taking the “high road” by not meeting with Democrats on coronavirus relief efforts.

Joe Biden’s policy platform aims to make both centrists and progressives happy. Could it cause a battle between the two if he wins?

An increase in virus cases in Europe is sparking fears of a second wave.