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Could Trump win with a blowout?

President Biden’s poor polling numbers have raised questions about the possibility of a blowout victory by former President Trump in November, even as he grapples with his own political challenges in the wake of a conviction in a New York hush-money trial.

A blowout wouldn’t look like the landslide reelection of President Ronald Reagan over Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984. But it could mean Trump winning more Electoral College votes than expected by flipping most if not all of the states Biden won in 2020 — and even expanding the map by turning some unexpected states, like Minnesota or Virginia, red.

As Biden contends with stubbornly low approval ratings, some have speculated that Trump could do far better than expected in November, with the former president himself bullishly suggesting he could win states like New York. But Trump faces his own hurdles, especially after becoming the first former U.S. president to be convicted, and many political observers say it’s impossible to predict how the election will shape up in five months.

“This could really tighten up to be a very close election, or Trump could continue to surge and Biden can continue to hemorrhage,” said GOP strategist Ron Bonjean. “Right now, we’re definitely at an inflection point where it could go either way.”

Emerson College Polling surveys from April and a Bloomberg/Morning Consult poll last month both had Trump leading Biden in seven swing states: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden won each of those states except for North Carolina in 2020 en route to 306 electoral votes.

Though Trump’s leads in the battleground states are narrow, the polls underscore alarm about Biden’s support. Even small gaps could make a big impact, as presidential elections have in recent cycles increasingly trended toward close races decided by just a handful of states.  

Candidates need 270 electoral votes to win. Biden won in 2020 with 306 electoral votes. Trump won in 2016 with 304. Former President Obama won in 2012 with 332 and in 2008 with 365, winning states like Indiana, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio in the process.

But Indiana, Iowa, Ohio and Florida have become more solidly red in the last two presidential races, leaving fewer states up for grabs and potentially turning a close race into a true landslide. 

Trump has been projecting confidence about flipping some traditionally blue states, like Minnesota and Virginia, where the White House hopefuls are separated by single digits. 

Polling would still need to shift significantly to make red flips in those states more likely, but Republican strategist Jimmy Centers said that’s not out of reach for the norm-defying former president. 

Still, the guilty verdict handed down in Trump’s Manhattan criminal case last week may have further complicated his path to success in November. 

In a Quinnipiac survey before the verdict, 6 percent of Trump voters said they’d be less likely to vote for the former president if he was convicted. 

A YouGov poll taken after the verdict found that 27 percent of independent voters were less likely to vote for Trump — but 21 percent were made more likely.  

An ABC News/Ipsos poll found 50 percent of Americans thought Trump’s guilty verdict was correct, and 49 percent said he should end his presidential campaign as a result. 

But other polling has consistently found many voters saying the outcome of the trial would not impact their ballot in November. 

Trump has gotten boosts from his legal battles so far, including three other criminal indictments and various lawsuits, and some Republicans believe the conviction will only further energize his base. 

Democrats are forecasting Trump’s legal troubles will turn off voters on the fence in the battlegrounds he’s going after.

“I think Republicans are flooding the zone with what they want to be true — that Trump’s guilty verdict is actually good for him,” said Democratic strategist Jon Reinish. “After all, it’s the Trump era and up is down and down is up.”

“However … I do not see a world in which gravity doesn’t exist and being a convicted criminal helps win the White House, the path through which is the suburbs and independent voters who live in the center.”

Meanwhile, Biden faces frustration from within his own party over the Israel-Hamas war, on top of frustration over the economy and general voter apathy toward a Biden-Trump rematch. He easily secured the Democratic nod but has been hit with notable protest votes in several state primaries, with an “uncommitted” push in Kentucky siphoning 18 percent of the party vote just last month.

There’s “a lot of concern” among Democrats over the incumbent’s poor approval rating, tight swing state numbers and protest votes, said Democratic strategist Michael Starr Hopkins. 

“Anybody who says it’s just a little concern is lying. This is an important election … and so Democrats are nervous,” he said.

“I think electorally, it’s going to be a close race because of the polarization of the country and the swing states. The math itself, I think, will be relatively close,” Hopkins said, arguing that “the popular vote is where we’re going to see a blowout” for Biden. 

The 2020 election was the ninth White House race in a row in which the national popular vote margin was in the single digits. Twice in the last 25 years, the candidate who won the national popular vote lost in the Electoral College, a feat that had last occurred in the 1800s. 

“Every indication we have is this election will be close just like the last one and the one before that and the one before that,” said David Hopkins, an associate professor of political science at Boston College. “In terms of expanding the map, that’s classic early-summer campaign talk.” 

High Plains Pundit's presidential forecast model currently predicts Trump has a 56 percent chance of winning the election, while national polling averages put the former president up by around 1 point. 

“It’s going to be close,” said Centers, and the impact of the verdict “remains to be seen” with Trump’s sentencing still up in the air. 

At the same time, wars in Gaza and Ukraine are showing no end in sight, and developments on the international stage could roil things for Biden in the coming months. 

“I think a blowout is unlikely, but there’s a lot that can happen over the next five months,” said Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. 

“What’s going to happen with the economy, what’s going to happen in foreign policy, what’s going to happen in the world, what’s going to happen in the country — none of these things are terribly predictable, but all of them could have an impact, individually and collectively, on the outcome of the race.” 

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