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Please help me understand the meaning of the "pick up a lot of ground" expression. I've tried googling, but I couldn't find it in any idioms dictionary or similar places. I've seen several cases of use:

And the left-leaning New Democratic Party has picked up a lot of ground, led by their charismatic 40-year-old leader Jagmeet Singh, who has energized young voters much in the way Trudeau did four years ago.

(An interview about Canadian polls)

or

The Pittsburgh Pirates had a chance to pick up a lot of ground in the Wild Card race over the past few weeks but they have struggled.

(Some baseball season report)

The phrase seems to indicate some success or good progress, but I would like to know a more precise meaning. It would be great if someone could explain the origin of this phrase.

P.S. This discussion: what does ground mean in "a lot of **ground**"? hasn't give me complete clarity

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‘Pick up a lot of ground’ means to get much closer, with the implication that they were very, very far behind, and maybe they had been wasting or not using time that they could have used productively. As you’ve observed, it can be used in terms of polls, or points in a sporting season.

So for polls — the article is saying that the New Democratic Party is getting a lot closer to their competitor(s) in terms of people’s opinion and willingness to vote for them, and maybe that the others had an early lead over them.

For sports — the Pittsburgh Pirates must have been doing badly at the start, and they had a chance to make up for it, but ‘have struggled’.

Hope that helps!

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  • Thank you very much for the great explanation @Fivesideddice! I get it now, it's like "cover a lot of ground" meaning go a long way, but in a figurative sense. – Ves Apr 9 at 12:53

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