SOUTH BEND – Let’s consider today the premier political question in the nation. The answer provided by voters in November can determine the presidential election and also decide close legislative races.
    
Q. How is President Trump regarded in his response to the coronavirus pandemic and in seeking a rebound of the economy?
    
A. Well, recent Emerson College polls show Joe Biden ahead of Trump by 30 percentage points in California and by even more in Massachusetts, 34 points. Beyond a landslide.
 
Q. So, Trump will lose?
    
A. Actually, how much Trump loses by in those states has no meaning – none – for the outcome of the presidential election. Trump will lose by large pluralities in big Democratic states such as California, Massachusetts, New York and Illinois. He lost nationwide in the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly three million votes in 2016. He could well lose by as many as five million votes this time. And win again.
    
Q. This would be if he carries a whole bunch of Republican states and some key battleground states again to win where it counts, in the Electoral College?
    
A. Exactly.
    
Q. OK, if it’s going to be decided again in those battleground states, how’s the wind blowing there?
    
A. CNN polling found Biden ahead by 5 percentage points nationally, but Trump up 7 points in combined poll totals from 15 battleground states.
    
Q.
So, Trump will win?
    
A. It still will depend on specific battleground states, particularly Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Trump won by a smidgen in an upset in each state, gaining the electoral votes for victory.
    
Q. How is Trump doing now in those three states?
    
A. Terribly in Michigan and Pennsylvania and trailing slightly in Wisconsin. A Fox poll showing Biden ahead by 8 points in both Michigan and Pennsylvania sent Trump into a tizzy. Those were polls conducted by what he considers his own network.
    
Q. Are there other 2016 Trump states that Biden could win?
    
A. Florida is one were Biden is doing well among older voters who are displeased with Trump’s response to the pandemic. Arizona is another where Biden leads. Democrats will try for other Trump states, too. But no poll indicates a chance to win any of the Republican states where Trump won by such percentages as these: Alabama, 28; Louisiana, 20; Indiana, 19.
    
Q. Then Indiana won’t be in the presidential spotlight?
    
A. It won’t. Democrats can’t afford to spend time and resources just to get closer. And Trump has to assume he has Indiana. If he doesn’t, he is going down big. But both sides could have events in South Bend, with an eye on coverage going into battleground Michigan. There will be a lot of ads on South Bend TV for the same reason.
    
Q. Are there some Clinton states that Trump could win this time?
    
A. Yes. Republicans will seek to reverse narrow losses in states like Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and Colorado.
    
Q. What will all this mean for control of Congress?
    
A. A lot. The election will be about whether Trump deserves another term and also about whether, even with voters who think that he really doesn’t, whether Biden would be a better president. Candidates for Senate and House will be drawn into that, whether they want to be or not. Republicans dream of defeating a lot of the first-term Democrats who won last time and regaining control of the House. Democrats dream of defeating enough incumbent Republicans to get control of the Senate.
    
Q. Could the political picture change by Nov. 3?
    
A. You bet. A lot can happen. Nobody predicted at the start of the year that we would now be talking about something called a coronavirus and whether the president ought to be taking something called hydroxychloroquine.

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.