We often focus on the battleground states that decided the last election and seem likeliest to decide the next one. But on Tuesday, we got high-quality polls from two states that Donald J. Trump won handily in 2016, and they’re an important reminder of the wide range of possibilities in this election.
The polls, in Iowa, which Mr. Trump won by nine points in 2016, and in Georgia, which he won by five points, both found ties.
But what’s behind these shifts is quite different.
In Iowa, where the Des Moines Register poll was conducted by Ann Selzer, one of the most respected pollsters in the country, Joe Biden seems to be securing large, broad gains among white voters. He’s benefiting from a similar shift across the Northern and mostly white battleground states — think Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine.
In Georgia, where the University of Georgia conducted a poll for The Atlanta Journal-Consitutition, there’s a shift among college-educated white voters, particularly in suburbs of Atlanta. But the state’s white working-class population remains staunchly Republican. Unlike in Iowa, demographic changes are also on Mr. Biden’s side. Georgia is growing fast, and it’s increasingly diverse.
Georgia and Iowa might be competitive, but for Mr. Biden, victories there would probably merely be icing on the cake: If he wins them, he’s almost certainly already won other battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania.
That’s a genuine possibility. Pennsylvania and Florida are close enough that Mr. Trump remains competitive. But states like Texas, Georgia, Ohio and Iowa are also very competitive. In fact, they’re closer than Florida or Pennsylvania — so close that 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.
But if Mr. Trump outperformed the polls by the same margin, suddenly we’d have an extraordinarily close race, with potential waits of days or weeks while mail-in votes were counted in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.