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Expand chart
Data: Morning Consult; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump's net approval rating has plunged in every key battleground state since taking office in January 2017, according to Morning Consult's tracking poll.

Why it matters: These are the states that Republicans and Democrats are vying for in 2020 and where, as of now, the campaigns think the presidential election will be decided, according to conversations with several Trump and Democratic campaign staffers.

In addition to the key purple states — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — that both sides recognize as targets, the Trump campaign has its sights set on Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico, all states Trump lost in 2016, several campaign officials said.

  • "We are trying to actively expand the map — aggressively," one official said. "These 4 states in particular are all areas [Trump campaign manager Brad] Parscale is set on winning."
  • The official added that the campaign, which is planning to beef up its communications and rapid response team with additional hires before the end of the year, will soon be flooding these states with stories that don’t get a lot of attention at the national level — such as Trump's work on opioids and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal.
  • "President Trump will again win the states he carried in 2016, and we believe there are a number that he can add to his column in 2020," said Tim Murtaugh, director of communications for the campaign.

Meanwhile, Democrats are hoping they can pick up Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas and Georgia, per talks with campaign aides and Democratic strategists.

  • "The midterms were a strong indicator of the Dem energy in these states, particularly in Arizona, Florida and Texas, and set the groundwork for us to flip them," one Democratic strategist said.
  • Note, however, that Trump still has a positive approval rating in Texas and Georgia, even though it's smaller than it used to be. "We dream that the Democrats think they can get Texas. It's a total fantasy," one Trump campaign official said.
  • A Trump campaign adviser also conceded that Arizona in particular will be tough for Trump to hold onto, but pushed back on putting too much stock in the 2018 election results: "Midterms don’t mean s---. It's a midterm turnout versus a general election — totally different."
  • Several aides on both sides of the aisle agree that it's far too early to assume either side has any of these states in the bag and that polls can only tell you so much this far out.

The bottom line: Both Republican and Democratic campaign aides privately acknowledge that they expect the election to be razor-thin in many of these states, just as it was in 2016.

  • However, the Trump campaign is betting on the Republican National Committee's data prowess and the size of the Democratic field to give them the upper hand, even with Trump's approval rating underwater in nearly every key state.

Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee's director of battleground state communications, David Bergstein, tells Axios that the Trump campaign "doesn't have a realistic argument about their map," noting that a Republican hasn't won in many of the states the campaign is targeting in over a decade.

  • "Democrats are taking nothing for granted," Bergstein said.

Go deeper

Virginia lawmakers vote to legalize marijuana in 2024

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. Photo: Alex Edelman/Getty Images

Lawmakers in Virginia on Saturday approved compromise legislation that would legalize marijuana in 2024, putting the state a step closer to becoming the first in the South to end prohibition on the drug, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Why it matters: The legislation will make Virginia the 16th state to legalize marijuana, per Politico. It would add to a slate of laws that have seen Virginia move in a more progressive direction during the tenure of Gov. Ralph Northam.

Scammers seize on COVID confusion

Data: FTC; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Scamming has skyrocketed in the past year, and much of the increase is attributed to COVID-related scams, more recently around vaccines.

Why it matters: The pandemic has created a prime opportunity for scammers to target people who are already confused about the chaotic rollouts of things like stimulus payments, loans, contact tracing and vaccines. Data shows that older people who aren't digitally literate are the most vulnerable.

14 hours ago - Health

FDA authorizes Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use

Photo: Illustration by Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday issued an emergency use authorization for Johnson & Johnson's one-shot coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: The authorization of a third coronavirus vaccine in the U.S. will help speed up the vaccine rollout across the country, especially since the J&J shot only requires one dose as opposed to Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech's two-shot vaccines.