Joe Biden speaks at an outdoor Black Economic Summit in Charlotte yesterday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Joe Biden or President Trump could win the election narrowly — but only one in a popular and electoral vote blowout. 

Why it matters: A Biden blowout would mean a Democratic Senate, a bigger Democratic House and a huge political and policy shift nationwide.

  • The reason this scenario is worth reflecting on is both the consequences, and because campaign advisers in both camps see it as a possibility. 

Polls show the path for Biden is quite plausible: He is winning in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and essentially even in Florida — all Trump states in 2016.

  • And remember: Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million last time to a much more unpopular Democrat, Hillary Clinton. 

Biden, thanks in part to changing demographics, is running close or better in red states Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Iowa and North Carolina.

  • In 2018, Democrats saw record turnout, especially among women. The early requests for ballots in key states suggest the enthusiasm persists at record levels. 
  • Democrats are raising money like rich Republicans — and, in fact, have a lot more than Trump and his allies, even though they are out of power.

Between the lines: The N.Y. Times' Nate Cohn puts it this way: "[A] Biden landslide is just as real a possibility as a Trump victory."

  • "If Mr. Biden outperformed today’s polls by just two points, he would be declared the winner early on election night and have a good shot at the largest electoral vote landslide since 1988."

The bottom line: Trump has few paths to the presidency if he loses Florida or in the upper Midwest. His team believes Minnesota is a state he lost that he could now win, but polls suggest otherwise. 

  • So, once again, his best and maybe only chance is to lose the popular vote and replicate razor-thin wins in the same states as last time. 

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Oct 26, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Trump reaches for oily lifeline

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Trump's campaign is making energy policy a prominent part of its closing swing state attacks against Joe Biden — especially in Pennsylvania, a state critical to Trump's reelection effort where he's trailing in the polls.

Driving the news: Trump's efforts include a new ad in Pennsylvania alleging that his Democratic presidential rival would crush the state's gas industry, and his campaign has aggressively deployed surrogates talking about energy in recent days.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 26, 2020 - Health

The swing states where the pandemic is raging

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, The Cook Political Report; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Several states that are likely to decide which party controls Washington next year have exceptionally large coronavirus outbreaks or are seeing cases spike.

Why it matters: Most voters have already made up their minds. But for those few holdouts, the state of the pandemic could ultimately help them make a decision as they head to the polls — and that's not likely to help President Trump.

What Matters 2020

The missed opportunities for 2020 and beyond

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Jason Armond (Los Angeles Times), Noam Galai, Jabin Botsford (The Washington Post), Alex Wong/Getty Images

As the 2020 presidential campaign draws to a close, President Trump and Joe Biden have focused little on some of the most sweeping trends that will outlive the fights of the moment.

Why it matters: Both have engaged on some issues, like climate change and China, on their own terms, and Biden has addressed themes like economic inequality that work to his advantage. But others have gone largely unmentioned — a missed opportunity to address big shifts that are changing the country.