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Here's where the Biden-Trump race stands 6 months out from the election

The rematch between President Biden and former President Trump is heating up as polls show the two rivals neck and neck six months out from Election Day. 

Polling is likely to fluctuate in the months leading up to the election, but for the first time since October, The Hill’s Decision Desk HQ average shows Biden narrowly leading Trump, at 45 percent to 44.9 percent.

While the news is good for the president, the data shows some bright spots for his rival as well. Trump is narrowly leading Biden in the critical swing states of Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to The Hill’s Decision Desk HQ polling averages in those states.

“If you asked me who I’d rather be today, I’d rather be Donald Trump,” said Scott Tranter, director of data science at Decision Desk HQ. 

Tranter told The Hill that the election could ultimately come down to a small handful of states.

“If I had to guess six months down the road, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Arizona will be the closest ones,” he said. “Obviously those will be the tipping-point ones.” 

Various key issues, including the economy, abortion and immigration, could also end up being decisive.

“The reality is any issue can be a deciding factor, because we’re talking about a small universe of voters in a select group of states,” said Doug Heye, a Republican strategist.

For Biden, polling shows that the flow of migrants over the southern border and the economy appear to be weak spots for him.

A Decision Desk HQ/NewsNation survey released Sunday found that 46 percent of voters think Trump is better suited to handle the southern border, while only 26 percent of respondents said Biden was the candidate to trust on the border. 

“Polling on issues has told us the same thing for a long time: the economy, prices, and the border,” Heye said. “And on those issues, Biden is completely underwater, and that’s what he has to fix.” 

The president is also trying to figure out how to message on the economy, as inflation remains an issue. An ABC News/Ipsos survey released last week found that 88 percent of Americans said the economy was important when deciding who to vote for, and 85 percent said the same about inflation.

Biden has touted job growth under his administration and has made a number of campaign stops highlighting economy and job growth. Last month, Biden traveled to Pennsylvania the day after Tax Day. Biden also made stops in upstate New York to highlight federal funding for Micron chip manufacturing plants. 

However, while the president has continued to tout job growth, recent economic indicators show Americans are still feeling high prices. Government data released last week showed U.S. economic growth dipping below 2 percent during the first quarter of the year, while inflation started to rise again to 3.5 percent year over year in March, according to the Labor Department’s Consumer Prices Index.

Trump and Republicans frequently use the economy to go on the offense against Biden and Democrats. Trump railed against Biden’s handling of the economy last week during an appearance outside of the courthouse at his New York City hush money trial. 

The same ABC News/Ipsos poll found that 46 percent of respondents said they trusted Trump to handle the economy, while 32 said the same about Biden. 

Democrats say there is still time to improve on economic messaging. 

“We have to be unapologetic about the successes that we’ve had and certainly even more amplified about the threat that the other side brings along when it comes to core values and core issues in this country,” said Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist. 

While Biden and his Democratic allies work to find their footing on economic messaging, Trump and his Republican allies are grappling with how to message on abortion. Democrats have successfully messaged on the issue since Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. During the midterm elections that year, Democrats were able to prevent what was expected to be a massive Republican wave, largely due to their messaging on abortion rights with the federal law legalizing the procedure overturned.

Sixty-five percent of respondents polled in a CNN survey last month said they disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the law. Trump has touted his conservative leaning justices and their decision to overturn Roe as an accomplishment of his administration. 

However, a KFF survey released in early March found that only 12 percent of voters said abortion was the most important issue for them in the general election. 

But Democrats also say their ultimate argument to voters goes far beyond abortion and gives voters a choice between what Democrats say are their fundamental freedoms and forfeiting those freedoms.

“Let’s just talk about freedom and democracy as we know it because every other thing you can think of falls up under that and it all hangs in the balance,” Seawright said, emphasizing the importance of Democrats leading with “kitchen table” issues.

Democrats are also weary of messaging too much on Trump’s mountain of legal issues, despite some polling suggesting voters would be turned off by a conviction in one of his criminal cases. 

“That is such a ‘what if’ and it’s moving toward a ‘probably not,’ so to have that be what is your silver bullet, I think, is a very silly mentality,” said Democratic strategist Jon Reinish, noting that the Biden campaign has so far avoided messaging on Trump’s legal woes. 

An ABC News-Ipsos poll released last year found that 52 percent of Americans view the charges against Trump in his New York hush money case as significant, while the latest ABC News-Ipsos poll released this month found that 16 percent of Trump’s supporters said a felony conviction would cause them to reconsider their support, while 4 percent said they would withdraw their support in that case. 

“Obviously this Manhattan case is going to have a verdict before the election,” Tranter said. “If he gets convicted there, will it hurt him among some independents? Probably,” he added, cautioning that ultimately he does not believe a conviction would have a large impact on voters.

One aspect of the race that hasn’t changed is Americans’ general unhappiness with the idea of a Biden vs. Trump rematch. According to a March AP-NORC poll, only 21 percent of voters said they were excited by Biden, and 25 percent said the same about Trump. 

Voters have also voiced concerns over both candidates’ ages and cognitive health. The latest NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll showed 74 percent of voters with concerns about Biden’s age and cognitive health impacting his ability to serve as president, while 58 percent said they same about Trump.

One variable that could have consequences for November is the emergence of a viable third-party candidate. The most competitive so far has been Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who switched from Democrat to independent earlier this year and has been polling in the low double digits. Democrats and Republicans alike worry that Kennedy could siphon off support from their respective candidate, though what impact that will ultimately has obviously remains to be seen.

“Voters overwhelmingly don’t want to see this movie,” Heye said, referring to the Biden-Trump rematch. “It’s not so much that either one of them could beat the other, it’s that either one could lose to the other.” 

Source: The Hill

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