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Rating change: Nevada a Toss-up in presidential race

Biden’s challenge in Nevada is similar to struggles across the Sun Belt and South

Joe Biden was just a forrmer vice president when he spoke at a Nevada Democrats election rally Las Vegas on Oct. 20, 2018.
Joe Biden was just a forrmer vice president when he spoke at a Nevada Democrats election rally Las Vegas on Oct. 20, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

ANALYSIS — Despite a persistently tight race in the national polls, President Joe Biden is in a precarious position for reelection and may even be a slight underdog with less than six months to go. 

Former President Donald Trump has led Biden by about 1 point or less for the last six weeks, according to the FiveThirtyEight national average. But the picture is more grim for Biden in the Electoral College, which is the most important race of all. 

Biden currently trails in the six most important states, including Arizona (Trump +3.2), Georgia (Trump +5.9), Michigan (Trump +1.4), Nevada (Trump +5.1), Pennsylvania (Trump +1.8) and Wisconsin (Trump +2.7), according to the FiveThirtyEight averages through Tuesday afternoon. Biden won all of those states narrowly in 2020 but may not carry any of them in 2024, if current trends hold up. 

Considering Republicans’ struggle in presidential cycles, Nevada was the only state not rated as a Toss-up by Inside Elections up to this point. While the GOP won big races in 2022 and 2014, former Sen. Dean Heller was the last Republican to win statewide in Nevada in a presidential cycle, and that was back in 2012. The GOP presidential nominee hasn’t won the Silver State since President George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004.

But Biden won Nevada by just 2.4 points against an unpopular incumbent and is at significant risk of losing Nevada in November as the unpopular incumbent himself. Considering the current president’s struggle generally and with Hispanic voters specifically, Biden doesn’t have a distinguishable advantage in Nevada. 

Inside Elections is therefore changing Nevada’s rating in the presidential race from Tilt Democratic to Toss-up. 

Biden’s challenge in Nevada is similar to his struggles across the Sun Belt and South. Some Democrats would even go so far as to map out Biden’s reelection without Nevada and point to the importance of the Blue Wall in the Midwest (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin). 

Removing Nevada from Biden’s column takes the president down to 226 Electoral College votes. (Trump has 235 in his column.) If the current president loses Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada, then Biden has to win Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. That would give him precisely the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win, including the single vote from Nebraska’s 2nd District. 

Of course there is still time for the election to shift multiple times between now and November. But each passing day creeps closer to Election Day with Biden trailing and Democrats searching for a race-altering moment that may never come. 

Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

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