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Head fakes? Here's why Donald Trump and Joe Biden claim they'll win states the other has in the bank

WASHINGTON - The Trump and Biden presidential campaigns have entered the "head fake" stage of the 2024 presidential race 鈥 each claiming they'll take states the other carried in the last election.

Aides to former President Donald Trump said they are taking aim at Minnesota and Virginia, even though he lost those states by more than 7 and ten percentage points, respectively, four years ago to President Joe Biden.

The president's allies, meanwhile, say Florida and North Carolina, which Trump won in 2020, are in play this time around. Though polls in both states show a challenge for Democrats.

Head fakes 鈥 or, as campaign officials like to say, "expanding the map" 鈥 are designed to intimidate the opposition, energize the base, or at least gull the other candidate to waste time and resources in a long-shot area.

"It's about creating the buzz," said political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, a senior editor with Inside Elections. "Everybody wants to claim momentum, growth and opportunity."

Prep for the polls: See who is running for president and compare where they stand on key issues in our Voter Guide

TOPSHOT - (COMBO) This combination of pictures created on September 29, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump (L) and Democratic Presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden squaring off during the first presidential debate at the Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio on September 29, 2020. (Photo by JIM WATSON and SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSONSAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

'A faux game'

As with elections past, this year both major party campaigns are citing polls showing they have real chances in states they previously lost 鈥 and accusing the other side of head faking.

Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita said the Biden campaign is "playing a faux game" in Florida and North Carolina, while their internal polls say they have "a real opportunity" to pick up Minnesota and Virginia.

The Biden campaign says the debate over abortion rights will propel them in Trump-favored states Florida and North Carolina. Both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have visited the states in recent weeks.

A March memo from the Biden campaign said that "the campaign will also seize on opportunities in states where the Biden-Harris coalition is uniquely strong and the extreme MAGA agenda is increasingly unpopular like Florida."

Nevertheless, the polling in these areas is very early and subject to change. The Real Clear Politics average of recent polls gives Trump leads in and .

Things appear closer in the Biden-won states that Trump is pursuing. The RCP average in Virginia puts Biden ahead by 4.3 percentage points.

In Minnesota gave Biden a 2% lead, pretty much a dead heat given the margin of error in the survey.

Six battleground states

Trump and Biden officials generally agree that the election will turn on six core battleground states: The Upper Midwest of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, and the Sun Belt in Georgia, Arizona and Nevada.

Biden carried all six of those states in 2020. Trump contested the results there, including efforts that led to his federal and state-level indictments on charges of trying to steal the election.

Trump is currently spending his days on trial in a New York City courtroom over separate charge related to hush money and improper efforts to influence the 2016 election.

Stuck in New York for the case, Trump has improvised campaign events in the city and claimed he will make a play for the state of New York, though that seems the longest of long shots.

Biden carried New York state in 2020 by more than 23 percentage points.

Throughout the proceedings, Trump has protested that trial has prevented him from campaigning in important states, including ones Biden's making a play for too.

On April 15, the day the hush money trial started, Trump complained "that I'm not in Georgia or Florida or North Carolina campaigning like I should be."

Head fakes of the past

Perhaps the most famous head fake in political history came during Trump's first presidential run in 2016. Late in the campaign, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton , then considered a reliable Republican state.

When Clinton failed to win Arizona, she was widely criticized for neglecting states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania 鈥 all of which Trump won, narrowly, en route to victory in the Electoral College.

President Barack Obama was not faking when he bid for North Carolina in 2008. He actually won the Tar Heel State, the only Democrat to do so since Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Obama also carried Florida in both 2008 and 2012.

Democrats talk about flipping Texas 鈥 but likely won't in 2024

Claiming you can win the other candidate's state is an old tactic, said campaign officials past and present.

"Democrats always make noises like 'oh, we're going to take Texas this time' - and they never do," said Tim Murtaugh, communications director for the Trump campaign in 2020.

As for his side, Murtaugh cited polls showing Trump ahead in most if not all battleground states. "If anyone can talk about winning states he didn't win last time, it's Trump," he said.

Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist who backs Biden, pointed out that many state polls are within the survey's margin of error. He also said that the incumbent president is gaining on the former president, thanks to issues like abortion rights and Trump's sweeping legal charges.

Democrats say Trump and his aides are exaggerating poll numbers, criticizing them for claiming he "won" contested states four years ago. The former president has long made false claims about the 2020 race for the White House, calling the contest "stolen" without evidence.

"He's spent the last few years lying about the last election," Rosenberg said. "Its not surprising he'd be lying about this election."

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