Welcome to the watch-what-they-do finale of the presidential campaign. Don’t pay attention to what the candidates and their aides are saying about their closing strategies. The best way to tell which states President Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. think are in play is to track their campaign travel.
Trips are being announced just a few days in advance, and the operative word is tentative. Candidates will make last-minute adjustments to their schedules based on the latest information from overnight polls (or prodding from worried supporters).
Case in point: Mr. Biden paid a quick trip to Pennsylvania on Monday. This is one of the most contested states on the map, which the president narrowly won last time and where polls now show Mr. Biden ahead. Mr. Trump has traveled so often to the state in recent days that it seems only a matter of time until Pennsylvania starts hitting him up for its resident income tax.
Mr. Biden heads to Georgia on Tuesday and to Iowa later in the week, two states Mr. Trump won in 2016 that are on the edge of the Democrats-have-a-chance map. It’s an aggressive move. Should Mr. Biden lose next Tuesday, expect the second-guessing brigade to inspect his decision to play offense when perhaps the game called for defense, and to invoke the trip Hillary Clinton made to Arizona at the end of the 2016 campaign.
But he is also going to Tampa, signaling how important Florida is, and how Democrats have put the president on the defensive in a state that he needs to win. (If early returns show Mr. Biden winning Florida next week, watch Democrats begin to pop the champagne.) And he is also heading to Wisconsin, as he tries to nail down the three Rust Belt states — the other two are Pennsylvania and Michigan — that lifted Mr. Trump over the 270 electoral vote hurdle four years ago.
Mr. Trump is spending a lot of time on defense this week, heading to states that he won in 2016 and where he is struggling today: Arizona and, of course, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Assuming Mr. Trump can hold on to the rest of his 2016 map (and that may be a big assumption), he needs to hold just one of the three key Midwestern states to win re-election.
Interestingly, Mr. Trump is also going to Nevada, a state that Mrs. Clinton won in 2016. Nevada has not been extensively polled, and the surveys that have been done show a tight race there. Some clarity about the state of play in Nevada could come later Tuesday with the latest New York Times/Siena College Poll, which we expect to release around 1 p.m. Eastern.