Democrat Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in the polls with less than a week to go before the US election.
The debates are over, tens of millions of Americans have cast their ballots already and the 77-year-old former vice president would appear to be on a glide path to the White House.
Not so fast.
The 74-year-old Trump has several potential routes to victory on November 3 and the most likely ones wind through the battleground states of Florida and Pennsylvania.
Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by nearly three million votes and is likely to lose it to Biden also.
But US presidential elections are not decided by the popular vote.
They are decided by the 538-member Electoral College and Trump could find a way to scrape together enough electoral votes to win.
Each of the 50 US states plus Washington DC has a number of electoral votes equal to their number of members of the House of Representatives plus their two Senators.
California, with 55 electoral votes, is the biggest prize followed by Texas with 38, Florida and New York with 29 each and Pennsylvania with 20.
Except for in Maine and Nebraska, all of a state’s electoral votes are allotted to the winner of the popular vote in the state.
A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the White House.
According to the polls and the pundits, Trump is virtually assured of winning 163 electoral votes from the solidly Republican states that voted for him last time.
Biden looks poised to scoop up at least 260 electoral votes including two states that Trump won last time — Michigan and Wisconsin.
But Trump can afford to lose those two midwestern states and still carve out a victory on November 3.
“If Donald Trump wins all of the states he won last time with the exception of Wisconsin and Michigan and maintains Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida, he wins,” said Capri Cafaro, a former Democratic member of the Ohio state senate.
“He gets to 270,” said Cafaro, who is now an executive in residence at American University. “And that’s plausible. It’s very, very possible.”
The political tracking website RealClearPolitics (RCP) shows extremely tight races in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona and Florida.
RCP’s average of state polls has Biden up by 2.4 points over Trump in Arizona, trailing by 0.4 points in Florida, leading by 0.7 points in North Carolina and up by 3.8 points in Pennyslvania.
“Pennsylvania is key because it’s going to be difficult for Trump to chisel together enough electoral votes otherwise,” said Cafaro.
Trump held three campaign rallies in Pennsylvania on Monday and stressed the importance of winning the Keystone state.
“We win Pennsylvania, we win the whole ballgame,” he said.
But the Biden campaign has also devoted considerable resources to Pennsylvania and sent its heavy hitter, former president Barack Obama, there for his first appearance on the campaign trail.
And in a sign that the president faces an uphill climb this time the RCP polling averages also show close races in several states which Trump won in 2016 including Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas.
Trump repeatedly denounces the polls as inaccurate but he has taken time out from his busy schedule to campaign in Iowa and Georgia, which he won by 9.4 and five points respectively four years ago.
In an indication that the White House anticipates a close race where every electoral vote counts, Trump has also visited both Nebraska and Maine, states where only a single electoral vote may be in the balance.
Unlike in the other 48 states and Washington DC, the five electoral votes in Nebraska and four electoral votes in Maine are divided between the winner of the popular vote in the state and the winners of each of their congressional districts.
Trump is expected to easily win the popular vote in Nebraska and Biden is on track to do the same in Maine but each state also features a hard-fought congressional race — and the solitary electoral vote that comes with it.❐