Democrats lose ground in 6 states with election forecaster’s postdebate shift

Former President Trump is gaining ground in key swing states and could threaten to take states once considered to be safe for Democrats, as President Biden struggles to regain ground after a shaky debate performance, according to a new Cook Political Report analysis Tuesday.

Biden’s defiance against calls for him to leave the presidential campaign after last month’s debate have only worsened his chances in November, Cook Editor-in-Chief Amy Walter wrote.

“Biden was losing pre-debate. Now, he’s losing by a bit more,” she said, adding that the possibility Biden leaves the race at this point is “remote.”

Citing postdebate polling, Cook announced it will move Minnesota, New Hampshire and Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District from “Likely Democratic” to “Lean Democratic.” The group also moved Nevada, Arizona and Georgia from “Tossup” to “Lean Republican.”

Both the Biden and Trump campaigns viewed the first debate as a key turning point in the race. Biden’s faltering performance raised worries among Democrats about his ability to both win the election and serve a second term.

Seven House Democrats have publicly called on Biden to end his campaign, and a rising number have pressured him to quickly prove to the public that he can be a strong candidate.

While polling has been limited since the debate, signs point to the debate shifting about 2 percentage points of support from Biden to Trump, Walter said.

“However, given our closely divided electorate, even a small two-point shift is significant,” she wrote.

Three states remain in the “Tossup” column in Cook’s forecast: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Walter noted that Trump has polled strongly in Pennsylvania, taking a small lead over Biden, though she said that it’s too early to say whether either candidate is truly favored.

She argued Biden’s debate performance proved the dire stakes of the president’s key campaign problem: a lack of enthusiasm among voters.

“The Biden team has argued that though these voters may be disengaged now, once they are made aware of the high-stakes of this election, they will ultimately turnout for the president,” Walter wrote. “However, Biden’s weak debate performance calls into question whether he can effectively deliver that message to these already disenfranchised and skeptical voters.”

“Biden’s challenge isn’t simply to convince voters that he can win, or that his policies are superior to Trump’s,” she continued. “He has to convince voters, including many in the anti-Trump coalition who supported him four years ago, that he is physically and mentally able to govern for another four years.”

Walter also cited other factors that could help Trump’s campaign in the coming months, including a favorable media environment and a shifting focus away from his legal trouble. With media focused on criticism of Biden’s age and with Trump’s legal trials delayed to beyond the election, fewer critical eyes are on the former president, she argued.

The candidates remain neck and neck in national polling. Trump currently leads Biden by 1.3 percentage points in The Hill/Decision Desk HQ average of polls.

The Hill has reached out to the Biden campaign for comment.

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