News on Wednesday that the Trump campaign has scaled down its TV advertising spending in Michigan is proof of how the 2020 landscape is shifting.
Trump was brought over the finish line in 2016 by winning Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin by narrow margins against Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
If any of the three states slip from his grasp this time around — and Michigan looks the most likely to do so — then Florida, the biggest of the swing states, becomes a true must-win for Trump.
Yet the outlook in the Sunshine State is very cloudy for Trump too.
He won Florida four years ago by more than 100,000 votes, but he trails his presumptive Democratic opponent, Joe Biden, there by 7 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) polling average. Biden led one recent Florida poll, from Quinnipiac University, by 13 points.
“It is a lifetime between now and November, and I do believe it will tighten because that’s just the way Florida is,” said Annette Taddeo, a Democratic state senator. But referring to her own strong confidence in Biden’s chances, she added: “I never felt this way four years ago.”
With fewer than 100 days left before the presidential election, campaigns are already making hard decisions about which states to focus on.
In 2016, Trump won the Electoral College by a comfortable margin — 306 to 232 — even while losing the popular vote by around 2 percentage points. Repeating that achievement will require staunch defense of some states — and a ruthless cutting of losses where the climb is just too steep.
If every state voted the same way as in 2016 except for Florida and Michigan, Biden would be the next president.
According to a New York Times report Wednesday, Biden has outspent Trump by more than 3 to 1 in television advertising in Michigan during the past month. The Times reported that the Trump campaign has not run a Michigan-specific ad since July 3.
Michigan went more narrowly for Trump than any other state in 2016. He won the Wolverine State by around 11,000 votes, or about one-third of a percentage point. Now Trump lags Biden by 8 points there, according to the RCP average.
Democrats in the state point to Trump’s handling of the coronavirus — the millstone that is dragging him down everywhere — as one reason why he is faring so badly. They also highlight his attacks on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), which they say have backfired.
Adrian Hemond, a Democratic strategist in Michigan, suggested that Trump’s rhetoric about race and the protests that have roiled the nation in recent months have played badly, motivating nonwhite voters to oust him from office in November.
“The president has been leaning even further into racial rhetoric, leaning into this authoritarian approach in cities,” Hemond said. “Contributing to his bad numbers is the enthusiasm of Black and brown people to vote.”
The Trump campaign pushes back against the idea that the path to a second term is becoming narrower.
A spokeswoman for the campaign, Samantha Zager, told The Hill via email: “President Trump has consistently delivered on his America First agenda for the last three years. With strong support and organic enthusiasm for the Republican ticket, there are multiple target states that will be in play and several paths to win this November.”
The Trump campaign has also suggested it could bring states that voted [ … ]