Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has a permanent lead over President Donald Trump on national poll averages ahead of his first debate, where candidates will discuss the Supreme Court, the economy and the coronavirus pandemic.
The debate will take place on Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET will take place in Ohio – a state that Trump easily won in 2016 but which is highly competitive in 2020.
Some recent surveys:
While the electoral gap could favor Biden, it is the electoral college, not the referendum, that decides the race. Trump won the 2016 referendum despite Democrats Hillary Clinton's more than 2.8 million lead.
But with just 40 days to go until election day, Biden appears to be sticking to his leadership in a number of key battlefield states, albeit tightly in some cases.
The polls averages from Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arizona give Biden a spread of 3.8 points above Trump, according to RCP's Swing State Tracker.
The next races on this tracker are North Carolina and Florida, both of which won Trump against Clinton. Biden has an average of 0.5 points in North Carolina and an average of 1.3 points in Florida.
In particular, the Sunshine State with its 29 votes has become a focus of both campaigns.
Trump, who recently made permanent residence in Florida, and Biden visited him earlier this month, and both did overtures to the high proportion of Latino voters there.
The competition appeared to be growing after a handful of polls that showed Trump topping Biden among the Latinos in Florida.
Trump's surprise move last week to announce $ 13 billion in disaster relief to Puerto Rico was seen as an obvious game for voters in Florida. Florida Republicans are reportedly urging Trump to elect Barbara Lagoa as his next Supreme Court nominee, believing the Cuban-American federal judge could increase the president's chances in the state.
Some individual government polls show that Trump has been gaining ground since August. For example, a Monmouth University poll of registered voters in Iowa found that Trump had a 50% to 44% lead over Biden, though a separate model of likely voters by the same pollster put the race at a narrower spread of 49% to 46% for Trump. The poll of 402 registered voters in Iowa was conducted by telephone between Friday and Tuesday. The error rate is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
One political analyst who doesn't change his prediction in early August is historian Allan Lichtman, who has correctly named every presidential race since 1984.
"I absolutely stand by my prediction" that Licht will lose in 2020, Lichtman said in a phone interview with CNBC last week.
Lichtman's method eschews the polls in favor of an analysis of 13 different categories, such as the state of the economy and the president's policies, which are referred to as "keys to the White House".
"The keys are like a stone. They don't change easily because they have the basics, not the day-to-day campaign," said Lichtman. "Trump won't suddenly turn into a different person."
Despite Lichtman's prediction and the steady Trump-Biden gap in survey averages, there are more than enough reasons not to come to any conclusions about what the outcome will be – or when it will even be known.
Ongoing fears over the spread of Covid-19, which killed more than 200,000 people in the US, has led some heads of state to widen access to mail-in voting by raising the bar for applying for a Lowered postal votes or simply sent ballot papers to registered voters nationwide. The changes have raised concerns that election day itself will be fraught with confusion as large ballot papers may not be counted until days after November 3rd.
Trump, who is voting by mail himself, has opposed these mail-in voting plans, claiming without evidence that they will inevitably lead to widespread fraud. According to recent polls, far more Democrats than Republicans plan to vote in the 2020 elections by mail.
On Wednesday, Trump refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power when he was asked by a reporter at the White House whether he would make such a promise: "Win, lose or tie".
"Well, we have to see what happens. You know that. I complained very badly about the ballots. And the ballots are a disaster," Trump said.
He added, "Get rid of the ballots and you will get a very – you will be a very peaceful – there will be no broadcast, frankly, there will be a sequel."
Trump has linked his doubts about the integrity of the voting to his efforts to quickly occupy the Supreme Court seat vacated by Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death on Friday.
"I think this will end up in the Supreme Court and I think it's very important that we have nine judges," Trump said on Wednesday.
At the same time, US officials have warned that foreign actors are working to influence the election result. Last month, counterintelligence chief William Evanina said Russia was trying to "undermine" Biden's candidacy while China and Iran opposed Trump's re-election.
FBI Director Christopher Wray told Congress last week that Russia had been "very active" in its efforts to "vilify" Biden.
Meddling in foreign elections and efforts to suppress voters are the two things that "keep me up at night," Lichtman told CNBC.