But there is an asterisk to the Great Lakes’ importance in this election: Arizona.
The math as it stands now is pretty simple. Biden gets to 278 electoral votes if he wins the states Hillary Clinton won in 2016 (232 electoral votes — he’s ahead in all of these states) and Michigan (16 electoral votes), Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) and Wisconsin (10 electoral votes). Biden holds an edge of greater than 5 points in each of these Great Lake states.
Even if Trump were to lose Nebraska’s second congressional district (worth 1 electoral vote and where Trump is down 7 points in the polling average) in a scenario where he won at least one of the aforementioned Great Lake battleground states, the worst he could do is tie. Trump would get at least 269 electoral votes, assuming he also took Florida and North Carolina.
Now throw Arizona into the mix. It has a very important 11 electoral votes. If Biden won those 11 electoral votes and Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, the math changes entirely.
The worst Biden could do is win exactly 270 electoral votes in a scenario where he wins Arizona, the Clinton states, Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district and two of the key Great Lake battlegrounds we’ve been talking about.
There’s a very realistic shot Biden can take Arizona. He’s up by about 3 to 4 points in the polling aggregate. That’s larger than his lead in the often touted swing states of Florida and North Carolina.
I should note Arizona still seems to be to the right of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the polls.
But there’s good reason to think that the polls in Arizona are less likely to underestimate Trump than in the Great Lakes. You may recall Trump overperformed his polling in the Great Lakes in 2016.
Because of the way polling misses generally occur, it’s quite possible Biden underperforms in the Great Lakes and still does well enough to win in Arizona.
And that means, Trump may very well need to win not just one of Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin to take this election. He may need to win two. That could prove to be a more difficult task for Trump and throws a wrench into a seemingly straightforward, even if daunting, plan for him.