The president’s goal is to squeeze just a couple hundred more votes—perhaps even a few dozen, in a place like Levant—out of each of these small cities and towns, not only in rural Maine but in its counterparts in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. It is in these states that a higher turnout of white, working-class voters is likely to accrue to Trump’s benefit rather than Joe Biden’s. Levant is almost entirely white, as is Maine, which is the whitest state in the nation. Polls show that Trump has made marginal improvement in his standing with Black and Hispanic voters, but simply based on their numbers, it is white voters who will decide this election, just as they did four years ago. And with more than half the vote likely already in before Election Day, the president’s chances appear to rest on his ability to turn out more of the conservative white voters who sat out in 2016, or backed a third-party candidate such as Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee who captured 5 percent of the vote in Maine four years ago. On Sunday in Levant, it seemed possible that Trump’s bet could pay off. Most of the people I talked with said their decision to back Trump was easier this time around, and a few told me they knew people who would be voting for him for the first time this year…

The core problem for Trump, and the reason he is expected to lose his reelection bid, is that the additional votes he draws out of places like Levant must offset the white voters who have deserted him en masse in the suburbs, and to a lesser extent, polls suggest, in exurban and rural communities that backed him so strongly four years ago. Hillary Clinton won Maine by just under three points, 48–45—a margin that came closer than all but one other state (Nevada) to matching the national popular vote. Trump has trailed Biden by double digits in every public survey in Maine for the past two months, as well as in several recent polls of neighboring New Hampshire, which Clinton won by an even smaller margin in 2016. (Unlike in some states, the polling averages for both states in 2016 were close to the eventual result.)

Trump’s loss of support in Maine and New Hampshire can’t be explained by a surge in enthused opposition from voters of color, because neither state has many of them: The president is doing worse because he’s doing worse with white voters.