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The Home Stretch

Polls are too irresistible to ignore. Here’s the state of the presidential race

The Boston Globe

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BREAKING: US officials say Russia, Iran have obtained some voter registration data, aim to interfere in election.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re old enough to remember 2016 or you’re one strange/advanced/invested kiddo. Either way, you know that elections can be unpredictable, no matter what the polls say.

But that doesn’t mean that all polls are useless. They just need to be treated as snapshots in time that can show us trends and help us understand who might be leading in the states that are most likely to determine the outcome of the presidential race.


There are no better resources than the poll trackers from FiveThirtyEight and Real Clear Politics - which calculate the average of a bunch of polls - to explain the state of the race with 13 days to go, and here’s a quick cheat sheet.

*These averages were from Wednesday at 7 p.m. Keep in mind the polls tracked typically have margins of error that range between 3 and 5 percentage points.


If you’re already drafting a tweet about how national polls are irrelevant, I feel you. But there are a few important things to know. Joe Biden is up 9.9 percentage points in FiveThirtyEight’s average and 7.6 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average, and he’s over 50 percent in both. By comparison, Hillary Clinton was not above 50 percent at the same point four years ago, and her lead over Donald Trump was not quite as large as Biden’s is now.

Battleground states

Both trackers show Biden clinging to narrow leads in Pennsylvania (+4.9 for RCP, +6.2 for 538), Florida (+2.1 for RCP, +3.6 for 538), North Carolina (+2.3 for RCP, +3.1 for 538), Wisconsin (+4.6 for RCP, +6.3 for 538), and Michigan (+7.8 for RCP, +8.1 for 538). Trump has a tiny lead in the Ohio polling averages for both trackers.


One additional thing to note: The only battleground state where RealClearPolitics has Biden polling at least 50 percent is Michigan, while FiveThirtyEight has Biden reaching that threshold in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Other interesting states

Texas has voted Republican in every presidential race since 1976, but the polls suggest Trump and Biden are still very close. RealClearPolitics has Trump up 4 percentage points, and FiveThirtyEight has Biden within 1 point. In Georgia, another reliably red state, Biden has a narrow lead, although almost all polls there are within the margin of error. My colleague Jazmine Ulloa reported this week that Biden has the chance to flip Arizona, and the polls show he’s maintaining a lead.

Read an important story you may have missed:

Trump VS women:

Even as he pleads for a boost in female support at his rallies and dispatches surrogates like Lara Trump to rally women in battleground states, Trump is continuing to launch fierce attacks against female journalists and politicians who challenge him, including just in the last week against “TODAY” show co-host Savannah Guthrie and “60 Minutes” host Lesley Stahl. Read more

Mail-in voting:

As the nation lurches toward an election complicated by potentially record-breaking turnout, a massive expansion of mail-in voting because of the pandemic and the ever-present possibility of court decisions changing the rules at the last minute, elections experts are steeling the public for days or weeks of uncertainty about the winner as the counting drags on. Read more.


It’s all over:

Whatever one thinks about when the campaign began exactly, James Pindell writes that it’s very clear when it ends: around 10:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, on Thursday. Read more

Turnout watch:

More than 1 million people already cast ballots in Massachusetts ahead of the Nov. 3 election, fueling what state officials expect to be a record-level turnout. Read more.

Where the candidates are tomorrow:

Joe Biden had no public events today, and he’s in Nashville for the final presidential debate on Thursday.

Donald Trump had a rally in Gastonia, N.C. today, and he’s in Nashville for the final presidential debate on Thursday.

Learn something new:

— If you find yourself thinking that your uncle’s Facebook posts can’t possibly be true, you should listen to today’s episode of The Daily on how social media companies are trying to deal with misinformation. Listen here.

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.