President Trump brought $5 million in federal aid for an airport runway in Pennsylvania on Thursday, plus nearly $50 million this week to fight street violence in Wisconsin and the designation of a North Carolina town as a World War II “heritage city,” as he and Democratic presidential nominee Joseph R. Biden narrow their campaigns to a baker’s dozen of battleground states that will decide the election.
In addition to using the advantages of incumbency, Mr. Trump’s campaign advisers say his travel schedule for the week following the Republican National Convention shows in large part where the fall campaign will be fought.
Much of the battle will take place in the upper Midwest states of Minnesota and Wisconsin, in the Rust Belt states of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, even in the relatively small electoral-vote prizes of New Hampshire and Maine.
Add to those battlegrounds Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa, and Nevada, and that’s the 2020 map for the final two months of the campaign.
In Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump has narrowed the gap with Mr. Biden in public polls to less than four percentage points; in July, the Democrat held a double-digit lead. Two days before the president’s arrival in Latrobe, the administration announced that the regional airport will receive $5.2 million to complete a runway extension.
The president told throngs of supporters at an airport rally that “fake polls” show Mr. Biden leading.
“We have the real numbers. We’re leading everywhere,” Mr. Trump said. “I think we’re way ahead of what we were four years ago.”
He hammered again on his theme of restoring law and order nationwide, saying Mr. Biden “wants to surrender your nation to the radical left-wing mob.”
Westmoreland County, the land of golfing legend Arnold Palmer and Rolling Rock beer, is important to the president’s prospects in the state. In 2016, Mr. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton there by a whopping 63.5% to 32.5%. Mr. Trump performed 8% better there than Republican Mitt Romney did in 2012.
The county is also the site of the “Trump House,” a stars-and-stripes covered home owned by Leslie Rossi, who was a delegate to the RNC this year. The house on Route 982 is a political tourist attraction, featuring a 20-foot-tall cutout of the president.
“I think we needed a ‘people president,’ and we got one,” Mrs. Rossi said recently on WBUR radio. “He was a great president for the four years we’ve had him, and we’re going to get him in there again, no problem.”
Referring to the president’s trip, Mr. Biden said voters “almost certainly won’t hear him take responsibility for the economic hardship his presidency has caused Pennsylvanians.”
“President Trump’s mishandling of the economy and the coronavirus pandemic has caused millions of people across the Commonwealth to file for unemployment since March, has led to a staggering unemployment rate of over 13% in Westmoreland County, and caused nearly 8,000 Pennsylvanians to lose their lives from the virus,” he said in a statement.
While the president was energizing his base in Pennsylvania, Vice President Mike Pence was making appeals Thursday to pro-life conservatives and religious voters in Raleigh, North Carolina. He visited Gateway Women’s Care, a pregnancy and health center that opposes abortion.
Mr. Pence said “life is winning in America” largely because of the “compassion of places life Gateway Women’s Care.”
“More young people are embracing a culture of life,” the vice president said.
He also headlined a “Cops for Trump” event in Raleigh, where the Southern States Police Benevolent Association endorsed the Trump/Pence ticket for re-election. The police organization represents about 60,000 law enforcement officials.
The vice president said Mr. Biden would “double down on the policies that have led to violence in American cities.”
Mr. Trump’s advisers believe if the president holds onto Florida, North Carolina and Arizona — states he won in 2016 — that Mr. Biden would need to win Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to win the election. If Mr. Trump wins just one of those four, his campaign strategists say, he’ll win a second term.
“They have to go four-for-four in those states, something we just don’t think is going to happen,” said Trump campaign senior adviser Jason Miller.
As of Thursday, Mr. Biden was indeed leading narrowly in all four of those states in the Real Clear Politics averages of public polling. The Democrat was up by 5.3 percentage points in Minnesota, up four points in Wisconsin, and up 2.6 points in Michigan.
The Democrat also was leading in Florida, Arizona and North Carolina (where the race is essentially a tie) — the states that Mr. Trump needs to keep in his column. Fox News state polls on Wednesday found Mr. Biden leading in Arizona by nine points, in North Carolina by four and in Wisconsin by eight points.
During a visit to Wilmington, North Carolina, on Wednesday, Mr. Trump referred to a recent poll showing him two points ahead in the state. “But I think that it’s probably 10,” the president said.
He predicted he will win North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and New Hampshire, and spoke about encouraging polling in Minnesota, which hasn’t voted for a Republican for president since 1972.
Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said it was “telling” that Mr. Biden has selected Minnesota as one of the first four states he’ll visit in the wake of the GOP convention.
“The last time a Republican won Minnesota was the first election of Joe Biden for the Senate,” Mr. Stepien said. “The fact that Biden is spending one of his first ‘above-ground’ excursions traveling to Minnesota tells you the defense he’s playing. It shows how the president’s changed the map. And more than anything, it shows how Joe Biden and the Democrats’ radical policies just aren’t playing in the Midwest like they used to.”
The president also holds an uncomfortably slim lead in Texas. And while the president’s campaign team expresses confidence that he’ll win the state again, the campaign launched a bus tour headed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday to shore up support in the I-35 corridor from San Antonio to Dallas. Four years ago, Mr. Trump lost 21 counties in a region of the state that has turned increasingly to Democrats.
Despite the president trailing in public polls, former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said there are more “hidden” Trump supporters who don’t show up in polls but will vote for him in November.
“[As] the person who coined the term, ‘hidden, undercover Trump voter in 2016,’ there are even more of them, and they’re even more committed now, and they’re going to surprise you as to who they are this time,” Mrs. Conway said in an interview with Showtime’s “The Circus.”
She referred to a poll showing that 62% of Americans said they are afraid to share their political beliefs, a view expressed mostly by conservatives.
“But they express themselves at the ballot box,” she said.