These 6 swing states are pivotal in the White House race. But what are the keys to winning each state?

October 30, 2020


USA TODAY Network reporters explore battlegrounds within 6 states – the keys to the political map in the states likely to choose the next president.

Michigan again expected to be a key battleground
Michigan represented one of President Donald Trump’s closest victories in 2016. And one of his most important. The Great Lakes State again is expected to be a key battleground this time around (Sept. 18)

Six states above all others have emerged as the top electoral prizes in the 2020 race for president. 

Three are Great Lakes battlegrounds that Donald Trump carried four years ago by less than a percentage point: Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. 

And three are Sunbelt battlegrounds where Trump’s 2016 margins were a little bigger: Arizona, Florida and North Carolina. 

They represent 101 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. In all likelihood, Republican Trump or Democrat Joe Biden will have to win at least three of them to capture an electoral majority.

Electoral votes

These aren’t the only battlegrounds in 2020. But their size and competitiveness have made them the states most likely to decide the presidency. 

Between April and August, these six accounted for all of top 20 media markets in the presidential ad wars. 

In their makeup, they showcase the great dividing lines in American politics (race, education, urban-suburban-rural) and the key demographic groups that will shape the outcome. 

This series offers a closer look at the battlegrounds within the battlegrounds – the keys to the political map in the states that are likely to choose the next president.

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Who will be the next U.S. president? These states will decide

Assign each of the battleground states to the candidates to see who would win the presidency.

Who wins the 2020 U.S. presidential election will be determined by voters in about a dozen battleground states. Expect to see the campaigns of Joe Biden and Donald Trump paying a lot of attention to these areas.

Play the game below to see how these states could determine who will win the presidency. Learn more about voters in each state and what could influence who they cast their ballots for. Assign each state’s electoral college votes to see what it means for the candidates and the combinations that would push Biden or Trump to a winning 270 electoral college votes.


The battleground will once again be close. Until 2016, Pennsylvania was considered reliably Democratic. But after supporting Barack Obama for president in 2008 and 2012, the state tipped in favour of Donald Trump. Luzerne County, which had voted Democratic since 1988, is seen as a microcosm of America’s turn to Trump, who won there by 20 points. With a stagnant economy hurt by the decline in coal and manufacturing, a strong base of white voters cast their lot with Trump. Republican voter turnout was way up while Democratic turnout was down, a phenomenon amplified in rural areas. But Trump may not be able to rely on that same group this time. Joe Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and will play up his blue-collar working-class roots. Also, that cohort of white, non-college-educated voters makes up a still significant but smaller percentage of the voter base, with an increase in Latin American, African American and Asian American voters across the state. Another key demographic will be white, suburban, college-educated women, especially those living in and around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. They fuelled the near-sweep of House seats for the Democrats in the 2018 midterms.

Pennsylvania by the numbers

  • Electoral college votes
  • 2016
    Trump won by
    44,292 votes
  • Latest polling data


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