PHILADELPHIA — As the days of the presidential campaign dwindle to a final few, the battleground of states up for grabs has expanded, with both the Democratic and Republican tickets on Friday pressing into territory once considered solidly in their opponent's columns.
No state represents the broadening playing field more than Texas, the longtime anchor of the Republican electoral map. There, the tightening polls and the explosive early vote turnout which has already exceeded the total vote of 2016 were enough to draw a visit from Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee in a last-minute play for the state.
Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential candidate, continued the offensive push with a visit to Iowa, where President Donald Trump won by 10 points four years ago. But the former vice president will also make a rare visit to Minnesota, a once-solidly blue state that Trump has kept firmly in his sights, sensing possibility its large numbers of white and rural voters. Trump also plans a stop there on Friday.
Overall, the kickoff to the campaign's final weekend pointed to the incumbent president largely playing defense.
"It's a sign that the fight is in Georgia, North Carolina, Texas and Iowa now — states the president won anywhere from 5 points to 10 points," said Stuart Rothenberg, a veteran elections analyst based in Washington. "That tells you something absolutely."
The trend is set to carry over into the campaign's closing days, with both sides making stops in North Carolina and Georgia, as well as the long-established Upper Midwestern battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
Trump, meanwhile, projected confidence that he would hold onto his wins from four years ago, telling reporters at the White House on Friday that he expected to win all of the states seeing a last-minute flurry of politicking.
"Texas is looking very strong," he said. "If you look around, Florida is looking great, Florida is looking really great. Ohio is looking great. North Carolina is looking fantastic, actually."
For Democrats, Texas represents the state most freighted with opportunity — and heartburn. For several presidential cycles, they have been tantalized by the state's changing demographics, only to be let down. If they wrested it from the Republicans, it would mark a monumental shift in the nation's electoral map.
Local politicians, including former presidential candidates Beto O'Rourke and Julian Castro, have been calling for the Biden campaign to pour more resources into the state. On Friday, they're set to join Harris to mobilize voters in McAllen, located at the tip of the Rio Grande Valley, an area that has typically lagged in voter turnout but considered rich with possibility for Democrats with its large youth and Latino populations.