As a few battleground states look on track to decide the 2020 White House race, it’s worth looking at how their economies are faring during the coronavirus recession .
Do any key swing states suffer from a relatively high unemployment rate, potentially making them easier game for Democratic challenger Joe Biden as he battles President Donald Trump?
Not necessarily, but Michigan, with its 16 electoral votes, comes closest to fitting the bill. The Great Lakes state had 8.5% unemployment last month, a bit above the national rate of 7.9% .
The table below shows how six key swing states have been faring in terms of September unemployment, as well as two other metrics — renters behind on payments to their landlords and usage of food stamps, also known as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
Further down, another table shows how Biden is generally leading Trump in polls focused on those six states, which are viewed by analysts as likely to determine the presidential election’s outcome. The former vice president’s advantage in Michigan is 7.3 percentage points vs. his average edge of 3.9 points in the battleground states. Trump and his campaign have said pollsters are getting the 2020 race wrong .
The two additional metrics (renters behind on rent and food-stamp usage) come from an analysis of government data by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities , a left-leaning think thank. Florida has shown an especially high percentage of cash-strapped renters, based on Census Bureau figures from September, and the Sunshine State had a particularly large increase in food-stamp usage from February to August, according USDA data.
Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, has argued that Biden needs to push his economic message ahead of the Nov. 3 election in order to win.
“The one thing that Biden simply has to do is to talk about the economy more,” Sabato said in a webcast last month . “He’s not going to have the edge on Trump on the economy for lots of reasons, good and bad, but what he can do is reduce the gap. He needs to have that be a wash, and it’s not close to a wash right now. Trump is getting credit for those first three good years of his term with the economy.”
The former vice president “needs to get out and campaign more, fundamentally, and then he needs to campaign about the economy more while he’s out,” Sabato added. “Don’t just talk about the pandemic, even though it’s your No. 1 issue. Work the economy in, too.”
Betting markets are giving Biden a 61.9% chance of winning as of Tuesday vs. the Republican incumbent’s 38.7%. Another closely watched measure of viability is each campaign’s finances, and Biden brought in more money in August and September , after Trump scored more donations in July .
This is an updated version of a report first published on Sept. 21, 2020.