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Opinion The Backstory: Here's what our reporters are watching for in key swing states Tuesday, and what you can expect from us.

12:15  30 october  2020
12:15  30 october  2020 Source:   usatoday.com

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On 22 October, US President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will meet for their second and final debate at Belmont University in Nashville You can find a detailed description of how we use your data in our Privacy Policy.

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I'm USA TODAY editor-in-chief Nicole Carroll, and this is The Backstory, insights into our biggest stories of the week. If you'd like to get The Backstory free in your inbox every week, sign up here.

In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden, left, speaks in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020, and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington on April 5, 2020. © AP In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden, left, speaks in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020, and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington on April 5, 2020.

As we near Election Day, six competitive states are likely to decide the presidency. Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Arizona and North Carolina offer 101 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win.

The USA TODAY Network has veteran political reporters in each of these key states. So if you want to know what to watch for Tuesday, you'll want to know what they are watching for Tuesday.

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FLORIDA: Capitol bureau reporter Zachary Anderson said that unlike other swing states, most of Florida's mail ballots will have already been counted, so it could have results Tuesday night. And the results are critical.

"If President Trump loses Florida, the election is pretty much over," Anderson said. "He likely doesn’t have a path to Electoral College victory. If he wins, the race could go into extra innings, and legal challenges elsewhere become more likely."

Within Florida, he said, keep your eye on bellwether Pinellas County in the Tampa Bay region. "The county went for Obama twice but flipped to Trump and then flipped back to Democrats in the 2018 governor’s race," he said. But be careful: While results from Democrat-heavy mail-in ballots will be released right after the polls close, "it will take some time to see how strong of a turnout Republicans have on Election Day."

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MICHIGAN: Trump beat Hillary Clinton in Michigan by just 10,704 votes, or about two-tenths of 1%, in 2016. It was key to his victory then and will be again this year. Todd Spangler, the Washington correspondent for the Detroit Free Press, will be watching three Michigan counties in particular.

"I’m going to be looking for results from Oakland and Macomb counties in the Detroit suburbs," he said, "since if Biden is doing particularly well in Oakland and/or Trump isn’t scoring as bigly as he did in Macomb four years ago, it strongly suggests the president is in deep trouble in Michigan." The other county is Kent, where Grand Rapids is located. "Kent is traditionally Republican but voted for Gov. Whitmer (a Democrat) two years ago," Spangler said. "If that flips from R to D, and if Trump is struggling here, it probably says something."

He also warned that Detroit is historically late reporting results and could be counting ballots for days.

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WISCONSIN: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Washington correspondent Craig Gilbert will be watching to see whether Trump replicates the big margins he won in many small rural counties in Wisconsin in 2016. "Some of these counties should report their vote fairly quickly on election night," he said. "If Trump is going to win Wisconsin again, he will probably need to match or exceed his 2016 numbers in the rural west and north (which were exceptional), because he’s in danger of losing ground in the populous Milwaukee and Madison metro areas.”

PENNSYLVANIA: J.D. Prose is a reporter in our Pennsylvania state capitol bureau. "In southeast Pennsylvania, you have Philly, solid blue, and its collar counties, which are trending blue more and more, and in southwest Pennsylvania you have Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, both solidly blue, but surrounded by a sea of red," Prose said. "Biden needs to cut into Trump's margins from 2016.

"Remember, Trump only won Pennsylvania by 44,300 votes and didn't reach 50%, so if Biden can flip voters in red counties from 2016 and benefit from the blue wave, then he's got a very good chance of winning Pennsylvania."

The Backstory: On Election Day, we're focused on accurate results, problems at the polls and correcting misinformation. Here's how.

  The Backstory: On Election Day, we're focused on accurate results, problems at the polls and correcting misinformation. Here's how. We've got reporters at polls nationwide, they'll immediately report on any problem they see: long lines, rejected ballots, voters turned away. We've been clear on the rights voters have at the polls: to be free of intimidation, to vote by provisional ballot if your name is not on the list of registered voters and to vote with accommodations if needed. You also have the right to vote after the polls close, as long as you are in line, and the right to revote if you make a mistake. Just ask for a replacement ballot. We launched a voter registration drive in January at vote.usatoday.

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ARIZONA: Arizona Republic political reporter Yvonne Wingett Sanchez will be closely watching the suburbs of both Phoenix (Maricopa County) and Tucson (Pima County), "which we expect to break for Biden," she said. "We'll be watching how LDS (Mormon) voters swing; lots of them are for Biden on the basis of character. We'll also be watching how our seniors break – given our high population of retirees, they are a critical voting bloc."

NORTH CAROLINA: Senior North Carolina reporter Paul Woolverton said Thursday afternoon that more than 3.9 million votes had already been cast via early voting and mail-in ballot, more than half of the state’s 7.3 million registered voters. "The polls say the presidential race is tight," he said. "Trump has made repeated stops in the state to rally his base." And he reminds: "Ballot counting won’t start until after polls close at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. If any race is tight, the results may not be known until all the mail-in ballots are received. So long as they are postmarked by Nov. 3, they can arrive as late as Nov. 12."

And here is what you can expect from us. We'll be monitoring polling places nationwide, correcting misinformation and providing accurate results. That could take a while.

It's unlikely a winner for president, and many other key races, will be called Tuesday night. The number of mail-in and absentee ballots in many states means counting could go on for days. The delay doesn't mean there is a problem – it means the system is working and states are ensuring every ballot is counted.

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We use election results from The Associated Press, which calls winners and does not make projections. The AP explains why: "If our race callers cannot definitively say a candidate has won, we do not engage in speculation. ... Only when AP is fully confident a race has been won – defined most simply as the moment a trailing candidate no longer has a path to victory – will we make a call." A good example is in 2000: AP did not call the race between George W. Bush and Al Gore because the vote in Florida made it too close to call.

And what if a candidate declares victory before the votes are confirmed? We'll note that it happened but also make it clear that the results are not final, and any claim of victory is premature.

It has been a long road to this election, and we know tensions are high. In our USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll this week, three out of four Americans expressed concern about the prospect of violence on Election Day.

Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page says she'll be watching for conflict at the polls, and already, buildings around the White House in Washington, D.C., are being boarded up.

"It’s no secret that our politics have become more polarized, but the idea that citizens are able to vote in safety and that the nation can count on a peaceful transfer of power is a bedrock," Page said. "Whatever the outcome, an election that goes smoothly will underscore the stability of those fundamentals. Indeed, one that goes smoothly and that has record-breaking turnout would fortify them.

"This year, the election itself seems the most crucial thing of all."

Nicole Carroll is the editor-in-chief of USA TODAY. Reach her at EIC@usatoday.com or follow her on Twitter here. Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free experience or electronic newspaper replica here.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Backstory: Here's what our reporters are watching for in key swing states Tuesday, and what you can expect from us.

Trump, Biden wait with the world for election results in a contest to decide course of America .
Millions voted in an election between Trump and Biden to determine how the US responds to COVID-19 pandemic, bolsters the economy and heals divisions.Millions turned out to polls for an election that will determine how to respond to a pandemic that has killed a quarter of a million Americans, bolster an economy that has taken a beating from the virus and heal deep divisions over racial injustice.

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