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The electoral map and each candidate’s path to victory

With only a few days left until Election Day, what paths do President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have to victory? Either candidate would need to accumulate 270 votes in the Electoral College to secure the presidency. NPR’s Domenico Montanaro joins Judy Woodruff to discuss the electoral map, battleground states and potential demographic changes from 2016.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now to help us walk through the battleground map and each candidate's pathways to the 270 electoral votes they have to have, I'm joined by NPR senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro.

    Domenico, thank you so much for being with us again.

    We are less than a week out. We're just, what, three days out. What does the big picture look like right now?

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Well, the big picture in our map so far, we have it at 279 electoral votes for Joe Biden for states that are leaning toward him or likely to go his direction, and only 125 for President Trump for states leaning in his direction or likely to go in his direction.

    So, this has been a crazy year, because, when you look at all of these states in yellow that are the toss-up states, from Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Iowa, all of those states are within the margin of error, Judy. So that gives a lot of Democrats a lot of pause when they look at a number that says, wow, Joe Biden is up by a lot, but that could all tip very quickly, especially if there's a polling error that, by the way, would have to be a lot bigger than in 2016.

    By the way, there's a scenario in which, if Trump were to win over all of those toss-up states, and the next state in that polling average that would be really important would be Pennsylvania, and you would wind up with a 259-to-259 map.

    That's totally possible if all of those states within the margin of error go Trump's way. And while that seems unlikely, President Trump certainly pulled off that inside straight in 2016, and a lot of people wondering if he could do it again. Honestly, it's the only — almost the only way for him to win.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A tie or close to a tie, just thinking about it gives me a big headache, Domenico.

    But you have looked at this. A path to victory for each one of these candidates, what would it look like?

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Yes, and if I can give you a little bit more of a headache, if Pennsylvania is that last state, they are pretty slow at counting the vote. And they don't have the experience with mail-in ballots, the way — with all these mail-in ballots that have come in this year.

    They haven't had that in the past. So that could leave us waiting for a very long time.

    But, as Lisa was saying in the earlier segment, the path for Joe Biden really starts in that Upper Midwest, Rust Belt area, given Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. Those four states, if Joe Biden can win there, that's the rebuild-the-blue-wall scenario. Everything after that would be icing and he could run up the score, frankly.

    There's a chance here that we see a Biden blowout. That's very possible, as is a Trump squeaker.

    Now, for Trump's path, everything goes through the Sunbelt, plus one, I call it. He's got to win all those old Republican-leaning states, like Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina, and then add one. He can add Pennsylvania. He could add a Michigan. He couldn't add Wisconsin.

    Wisconsin, by the way, voting — and I will give you some real anxieties here, if he were to do that and pick up Wisconsin, we could be in a tie scenario, 269-269. But that's just to give everyone headaches.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You're talking about a big one.

    And, finally, Domenico, you're not only looking at geography. You're also looking at demographics. You're looking at who the voters are, how they break down.

    And what do you see there that could move the needle this election?

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    Well, the biggest potential political realignment that we could be seeing is with white voters.

    Joe Biden has been overperforming with white voters. If whites with a college degree come out in the way, in the margins that we're seeing in the polls for Joe Biden, you could see a wipeout for Republicans in a lot of places, in the House in particular, which is why the House is not going — is seen to be going in Republicans' favor.

    You know, that is a real key demographic, whites with college degrees, suburban voters, independents. Trump won all of those, and Biden has been winning them by big margins in the polls.

  • Judy Woodruff:


    So many questions. We're looking for answers on election night, as we see those votes come in.

    Domenico Montanaro of NPR, thank you.

  • Domenico Montanaro:

    You're welcome.

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