WASHINGTON - Joe Biden continues to make inroads against President Donald Trump in states that went Republican four years ago, new polling suggests. If Democrats can flip a few of them - especially Arizona or Florida - while maintaining their 2016 wins, Biden's path to victory would be a straightforward one.
Elsewhere in the world of data, a Senate race in Maine illustrates the perils of moderation in the modern GOP and - following Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death on Friday - a partisan divide is clear over when the next Supreme Court justice should be chosen, and by whom.
BIDEN AIMS TO FLIP RED STATES BLUE
Nationally, Biden continues to enjoy the medium-sized polling lead he's now maintained for months (although it has dropped slightly from earlier peaks). During the two-week period concluding Sept. 22, the USC Dornsife poll put him 9 points ahead of Trump, 51% to 42%. FiveThirtyEight's polling average shows a slightly smaller but still impressive 7.3-point Biden lead.
As Hillary Clinton's Electoral College defeat in 2016 made clear, elections are won at the state level, not nationwide. But new polls also show Biden winning or trailing closely behind in key states that went for Trump last time around, suggesting that Biden's position in the states is more favorable than Clinton's was.
Two red states that would make a Trump win almost impossible were they to flip blue - Florida and Texas - remain close, new polling from CBS News and YouGov finds. Of likely Florida voters, 48% favored Biden while 46% favored Trump in the CBS/YouGov poll; their Texan counterparts favored Trump 48% 46%.
A poll by the Washington Post and ABC News gives a slightly different picture of Florida - one where Trump has a small edge, 51% to 47% among likely voters.
How to make sense of the difference? The key thing is that both the YouGov and Post/ABC polls have the lead within their surveys' margins of error. That means both polls are saying that the race in Florida - a perennially close state - is, once again, too close to call. Remember that polls are based on random samples, and therefore always have some built-in uncertainty, no matter how well they are done. In addition, pollsters also have the challenge of figuring out not only how people would vote, but if they'll vote at all, which adds more uncertainty.
Rather than focus too much on any individual survey, look at the averages. In Florida's case, they show a very close race.
North Carolina is another state that Trump won in 2016 that remains very close. A new Emerson College survey found likely voters split 50% Biden, 49% Trump, with only 1% undecided.