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Between the criticism of his debate performance, coronavirus hospitalization and infection cluster at the White House, a slew of new polls have shown President Trump falling further behind Democrat Joe Biden. What does that mean in the handful of swing states that are likely to decide the election less than a month from now? NPR has a new analysis of the electoral map. To walk us through it is our senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey there, Audie.
CORNISH: Nationally, we've seen Biden has had a pretty steady lead all year long. As things get tighter, what is your analysis finding?
MONTANARO: Well, after that debate performance in particular, we've seen Joe Biden's lead widen in a lot of national polls. And when you drill down into the states, Biden is widening his lead overall in the key Electoral College states. We now have Biden with states likely to go his way or leaning in his direction with 290 electoral votes to Trump's 163. And as you know, a candidate needs 270 to win the presidency because that's a majority of the 538 available.
CORNISH: Where is the Democratic ticket making the most significant gains?
MONTANARO: Well, given everything that we've seen over the last couple of weeks, everything we moved in this map since last month is in Biden's direction. Most notably, the two states that really stand out are Wisconsin and Arizona. We had them as toss-ups last month, and now they look like they're leaning toward Biden. We'd been reluctant, frankly, to move Wisconsin out of the toss-up column because it has a very high percentage of its population with white voters who don't have a college degree. They're a group that leans very heavily toward President Trump. But the polls have shown a very consistent lead for Biden and with him now over 50%. And that means at this point, Trump would have to win over voters who are saying they've settled on Biden rather than simply being undecided.
CORNISH: We've heard a lot about Arizona, which has been reliably Republican for so many years. When you actually analyze the state, where is this support coming from?
MONTANARO: Well, right now it is leaning in his direction. It's right on the edge of being a toss-up. But a couple of reasons for why we moved it here - Biden has had a fairly small but consistent lead overall. Trump hasn't led in the average of the polls there since March, toward the beginning of the pandemic. And when you look inside the polls, the place where most of the vote comes from in Arizona is Maricopa County. About two-thirds of the vote comes from there. That's where Phoenix is. And Biden is beating Trump there pretty consistently, doing better than Hillary Clinton did. And that's all about the suburbs. Biden is beating Trump in poll after poll with suburban voters, especially suburban women, by huge margins.
CORNISH: And to that point, when I look at the map here on npr.org, I see that you've moved some states that were solidly red. Now they're shaded pink - still leaning in the president's direction. What's going on?
MONTANARO: Right. This is one of the more interesting things overall because Biden is unlikely to win some of these states, places like Missouri and Alaska. We moved from likely to - likely Republican to lean Republican. And, you know, like I said, Biden's not likely to win those places, but the fact that the sea level seems to have risen is significant. Missouri, you might remember, used to be a swing state. John McCain beat Obama there in 2008 by just 3,700 votes. In Alaska, what's remarkable - Biden is polling closer there than Trump is in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Nevada.
And it's something we're seeing across a lot of red states, with Biden doing better than Clinton did in 2016. And that's all because of white voters. He's over-performing with white voters across the country. And if that trend holds, it could have enormous consequences. And it means at this point, Biden is on track to win more votes than Clinton overall and win the popular vote by a wider margin. Of course, the election, we have to say, is determined by those key states in the Electoral College. Trump certainly remains in striking distance in those.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Domenico Montanaro.
Thanks so much.
MONTANARO: You're welcome.
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