You’re seeing a lot of swing-state polling, quality and not, flying around, and you’re wondering whether you should panic if you’re a Clinton supporter. Could she blow this? She could, and you should always panic. But is there any public polling evidence that Clinton’s path to 270 electoral votes is in danger of closing off?
Nope. Today’s new polling—specifically in Pennsylvania—shows that Trump’s path is still blocked, and his chance of winning the election if polling is in the ballpark of accurate is going to require more deterioration on Clinton’s side and perhaps the metaphorical equivalent of a second Comey letter.
The big picture story is that Clinton’s advantages appear to have declined across the board. It’s unclear whether that’s mostly natural tightening (Republicans coming home) or the Comey letter. The narrowing of Clinton’s advantages has sent Florida and North Carolina essentially into polling average ties. (In both states, Clinton has amassed early voting leads to protect against less favorable Election Day projections.) Ohio is safer for Trump now, as is Arizona. Iowa is safe for Trump. Clinton is maintaining her Colorado lead but has gone back on the air with advertisements there to protect it. Virginia is still safe for Clinton. Nevada is closer to a tie.
For experimental purposes, let’s give Trump Arizona, Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, and Iowa. That leaves him with 265 electoral votes, five short of what he’d need to win. What then?
The go-to clincher state for the duration of this general election has been Pennsylvania. It still is. And Trump’s still not leading it. He has never been leading it. And he wasn’t leading it in the quartet of Keystone State polls released today: Clinton was up 5 percentage points in the Quinnipiac survey, 4 in Monmouth’s, 4 in CNN/ORC’s, and 2 in Susquehanna’s. The idea has always been that the white working-class western part of the demographically stable state would set up as a pickup opportunity for Trump in a way it didn’t for Romney. There is no evidence that is materializing.
This leaves Trump with a few other options.
The other one that’s long been looked at is a win in New Hampshire. That would bring him to 269 electoral votes, or a tie. He could put it over the top by capturing Maine’s second congressional district. Like Pennsylvania, though, there’s no evidence that New Hampshire is that competitive. Maine’s second congressional district looks much better for Trump.
Trump has also made a very public push for Michigan and Wisconsin in recent days. The Michigan push, at the very least, is worrisome enough for the Clinton campaign that it’s sending the candidate to Detroit on Friday. Still, both of these states would seem like bigger climbs for Trump than Pennsylvania. There was a lot of angst this morning in anticipation of the final Wisconsin poll from Marquette University Law School, a respected pollster. It showed Clinton up by 6.
There’s been the usual mockery of Trump’s campaign on Twitter and elsewhere for all the energy it’s devoting to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. I don’t know why. He’s not likely to win any of them, but if he doesn’t, he’s almost certainly not going to win the election. He has to try.