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Biden campaign sees larger 'battleground' in race against Trump

Reuters logo Reuters 5/15/2020 By Trevor Hunnicutt
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie: FILE PHOTO: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Washington © Reuters/Kevin Lamarque FILE PHOTO: Democratic U.S. presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign in Washington

(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 opening new battlegrounds in places like Arizona.

"We believe that there will be battleground states that have never been battleground states before," said Biden's campaign manager, Jen O'Malley Dillon, in an optimistic 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 Biden to success in his Nov. 3 showdown with Trump, a Republican.

The incumbent enjoys tremendous advantages of his own in the race, including strong fundraising and digital campaigning. Trump's own team has been working for months on plans to make a similar push in states where Democrats are seen to have an advantage, such as Minnesota.

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

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Presidential candidates must win at least 270 votes from states in the U.S. Electoral College system to secure victory. O'Malley Dillon's strategy includes protecting states Democrats won in 2016 and winning swing states that went to Trump in 2016, including Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.

"We have a clear path to 270," she said.

Even a handful of those states could lend the campaign a decisive victory and polling numbers in several such states show Biden ahead currently.

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

But the Biden campaign sees the electorate as different than prior to 2018's congressional elections, which pushed Democrats to a majority in the House.

They see suburban, college-educated and women voters growing more supportive of Democrats, and see many disenchanted by Trump's response to the coronavirus and his opposition to healthcare policies Biden helped enact as President Barack Obama's vice president.

They also concede 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.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in New York; Editing by Aurora Ellis)

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