The Slatest

Even if Polling Tightens, Where Is Donald Trump’s 270th Electoral Vote?

Donald Trump during an address to the National Association of Home Builders on Thursday in Miami Beach, Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Another new batch of state polls, another picture of total wipeout for the Donald J. Trump presidential campaign. The latest battleground numbers from NBC/WSJ/Marist show Clinton leading Trump in a two-way race by 14 percentage points in Colorado, 13 in Virginia, nine in North Carolina, and five in Florida. In a four-way race, Clinton’s leads dip slightly to 12 in Virginia and Colorado, but remain unchanged in Florida and North Carolina.

All of these figures are another way of saying that Clinton has a substantial lead in the presidential race across the country. RealClearPolitics’ national polling average gives Clinton just north of a six-point lead, while HuffPost Pollster shows it just shy of eight—basically the same margins regardless of whether two- or three- or four-candidate races are surveyed. If these national numbers stay in that range, it’s not worth the time and energy spent focusing on outcomes in battleground states: She’ll win them all. The Democratic National Convention is now two weeks in the past, and her bounce—still aloft thanks to an awful two weeks from Trump—has not subsided.

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It’s still too early to declare this six- or eight-point lead the new equilibrium that will hold through the fall. If it is, then Clinton will cruise to some 350+ electoral votes. If the race tightens nationally to three or four points, though, the battleground-state watching gets considerably more interesting and reveals opportunities for Trump in states where he’s overperforming his national average.

But whether it’s a seven- or two-point national race, there are still hurdles in two states that make it hard to see how he gets to the White House.

Consider the states that Obama won in 2012 where Trump is hanging in tight. Clinton’s leads in Florida, Ohio, and Iowa are in a range of two to four percentage points, while Nevada is deadlocked. If Trump can close his national deficit, those four states would be up for grabs; meanwhile, states that Romney won in 2012 but Trump is in danger of losing, like Arizona and Georgia, will revert to lean-red status. North Carolina, a state Romney won, would also be a toss-up.

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For the purpose of thought experimentation (and Friday afternoon fun!), let’s be exceedingly generous and say that national polls tighten to within the margin of error and Trump is able to win all of the Romney 2012 states plus Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and Nevada. That puts him at 265 electoral votes and the cusp of the presidency.

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Then what?

Clinton is running well ahead of her national average in Virginia and Colorado. Barring some shock—all of this is barring some shock!—those states are gone. As I wrote last week, this leaves Trump with two shots: Pennsylvania, which would put him over the top, or New Hampshire, which would throw the race to the House of Representatives (and, in all likelihood, a Trump presidency).

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There’s just no indication that Pennsylvania or New Hampshire are working out for Trump, even if their more receptive, blue-collar demographics theoretically make them more swayable than Colorado or Virginia. Pennsylvania is trending at about a nine-point lead for Clinton, besting her national average. New Hampshire has been polled more sparsely, but the past three figures show Clinton up by nine, 15, and 16, also outperforming her national average.

If Trump can’t win Pennsylvania or New Hampshire, or find a way to flip some other equally distant state like Wisconsin or Michigan, he can’t put himself over the edge, even in a much closer national race.

And no, Donald. Connecticut isn’t happening.

Read more Slate coverage of the 2016 campaign.

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