Today’s 2020 Election Polls: Warning Signs Flash For Peters In Michigan Senate Race

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Democrats are playing offense in their quest to take back the Senate, but a new survey out Monday found incumbent Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) ahead by just one point over GOP challenger John James, in a race Democrats assumed was a lock.

Senate Homeland Security Committee Holds Hearing On Threats To Homeland

WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 24: Ranking member Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., speaks during the Senate … [+] Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing titled Threats to the Homeland, in Dirksen Senate Office Building on Thursday, September 24, 2020. FBI Director Christopher Wray, Christopher Miller, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and Kenneth Cuccinelli, senior official performing the duties of the deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, testified. (Photo By Tom Williams – Pool/Getty Images)

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Key Facts

A New York Times/Siena College survey out Monday found Peters leading James 43%-42%.

James, a West Point graduate and former Army helicopter pilot who operates a family warehousing and logistics business, has seen his longshot chances at unseating Peters improve in recent weeks as polls have narrowed.

Holding onto Peters’ seat is crucial for Democrats looking to thread the needle and take back the Senate by picking up a net gain of four seats (Democrats can assume control of the upper chamber with a net gain of three seats if Joe Biden wins the presidency because the vice president breaks the 50-50 tie). 

While down ballot races may be tightening in Michigan, the Times survey found Biden ahead by 8 points in the state (48%-40%) and 10 points in Wisconsin (51%-41%). 

The poll found that Trump has lost his grip with white voters in both states, a group that he won overwhelmingly in 2016, trailing by 8 points to Biden among white voters in Wisconsin and ahead by just one point among white voters in Michigan.

Biden’s lead in the two Northern battlegrounds is also predicated on his overwhelming support from voters who cast their ballot for a third party candidate in 2016, according to the Times survey. 

Key Background

Biden leads by 6.1 points on average in Wisconsin, and 7 points in Michigan, according to polling trackers from RealClearPolitics.

Surprising Fact

Trump won white voters by 21 points (57%-36%) in Michigan and 11 points in Wisconsin in 2016 (53%-42%), according to exit polls. 

Big Number

258. That’s the number of electoral votes Biden will have if he wins all the states Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and picks up Wisconsin and Michigan, according to the Times (270 Electoral College votes are needed to win.) Both Wisconsin and Michigan went narrowly to Trump in 2016. 

Crucial Quote

Nate Cohn, a polling expert for the Times, says part of the reason why Biden is polling better than Peters in Michigan is that the Michigan senator has “thus far failed to match Mr. Biden’s tallies among nonwhite voters, who disproportionately remain undecided.” “It remains to be seen whether Mr. James, who is Black, will ultimately make significant inroads among these voters,” Cohn adds.

What To Watch For

The Times says Biden’s polling lead in Wisconsin and Michigan is enough to withstand a 2016-size polling misfire.

Further Reading

Today’s 2020 Election Polls: Biden Is In A Much Stronger Polling Position Than Hillary (Forbes)

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