McGraw, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on October 13, takes a look at swing counties in Pennsylvania (Northampton, Erie, Luzerne), Michigan (Macomb) and Wisconsin (Chippewa, Brown, Racine). The journalist describes them as Rust Belt swing counties that Trump won in 2016 and stresses that in most of them, he isn't performing well in 2020.
McGraw explains, "In March of 2019, I asked a simple question: President Donald Trump won the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin by a combined 77,000 votes — what counties in those states would have changed that if they had not swung his way?…. We pared it down to just seven counties total: three in Pennsylvania, one in Michigan and three in Wisconsin. Think about it this way: there are 3142 counties in the United States. President Trump could lose reelection if 3135 counties voted as they did in 2016, but seven counties do not."
McGraw notes that in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Trump "beat Clinton by 5000 votes after" President Barack Obama "beat" 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney "by 6000." In that county, according to a Morning Call poll, Biden is leading by 7%. And Erie County, Pennsylvania, according to McGraw, is a place where "Trump beat Clinton by 2000 votes" and "Obama beat Romney by 20,000 votes" — as well as a place where, in 2020, Biden is leading by 11% with voters who are 65 or older, according to an AARP poll.
Luzerne County, McGraw observes, is one of Trump's best counties in Pennsylvania: he won Luzerne by 20% in 2016. But it's uncertain whether Trump can "hold" that margin in 2020 in Luzerne.
McComb County, according to McGraw, is a Michigan County where "Trump beat Clinton by 48,000 votes" and "Obama beat Romney by 16,000 votes" — and where "the number of absentee ballot applications for this election" is "215,000 this year compared with 121,000 in 2016." Those applications, McGraw writes, are "not good for Trump" in a "state where Trump only won by about 11,000 votes."
In Racine County, Wisconsin, McGraw explains, "Trump beat Clinton by 4000 votes" and "Romney beat Obama by 3600 votes" — and in Wisconsin's Chippewa County, "Trump beat Clinton by 6000 votes" and "Romney beat Obama by 150 votes." Meanwhile, Brown County, Wisconsin, McGraw adds, is a place where "Trump beat Clinton by 14,000 votes" and "Romney beat Obama by 2300 votes." And Wisconsin, McGraw emphasizes, is a state that is being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic — and polls are showing that most voters disapprove of Trump's handling of the pandemic.
"In sum: of the critical seven counties, none of them look better for Trump than they were in 2016," McGraw writes. "And most of them look a good deal worse."