May 15, 2020 / 6:30 PM / 16 days ago

Biden campaign eyes expanded 'battleground' map in race against Trump

(Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign is betting that as many as 16 states could be up for grabs in November’s election, with President Donald Trump’s coronavirus response making places like Arizona more competitive.

FILE PHOTO: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign, held in CNN's Washington studios without an audience because of the global coronavirus pandemic, in Washington, U.S., March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

“There will be battleground states that have never been battleground states before,” said Biden’s campaign manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon, in a strategy briefing for reporters on Friday.

O’Malley Dillon included Arizona, Texas and Georgia among states that have been inhospitable for Democrats but that could power the former vice president to success in his Nov. 3 showdown with Trump.

The Republican incumbent enjoys advantages of his own in the race, including fundraising and digital campaigning. Trump’s team has been working for months on plans to make a push for states seen as Democrats’ home turf, such as Minnesota.

Biden has been restricted to campaigning from his Delaware home, where he is isolating due to the coronavirus. Some of his efforts to reach out to voters, including online events in states critical to deciding the election, have been beset with technical difficulties.

“Americans know that President Trump has been leading the nation in fighting the coronavirus, and they also know that Joe Biden has been nothing but a political crank, lobbing counterproductive criticisms from his basement bunker,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said.

Trump trailed Biden 38% to 46% among registered voters in the latest Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Tuesday.

O’Malley Dillon’s strategy includes protecting states that Democrats won in 2016 and winning swing states that went to Trump, including Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

Trump managed to overcome a polling deficit in 2016, beating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by relatively small margins in key states to win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote.

The Biden campaign sees suburban, college-educated and women voters growing more supportive of Democrats and more disenchanted with Trump’s coronavirus response.

The Biden campaign also concedes that some voters, including white voters without college degrees, black men and Latino men, have grown less supportive of Democrats in the last decade but think Biden’s working-class message can win them back.

Murtaugh said Trump would work to increase his support among black and Latino voters. Biden’s policy positions, Murtaugh added, would cause the Democrat to lose support in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis and Leslie Adler

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