Recent polling has not looked good for Donald Trump. While the presumptive GOP nominee had closed the gap with Hillary Clinton at the end of last month, June polling has shown her reopening the gap — up to nearly 6 points nationally by RealClearPolitics’ average. Seven of the past eight major national polls have shown Clinton with a lead of 5 points or greater. And numbers this week out of Florida — a vitally important swing state — were equally dismal, where Quinnipiac shows Clinton opening up a significant 5-point lead.
Given Clinton’s apparent momentum, however, it is interesting to note places where she hasn’t seen a major polling bump. Most notable is Pennsylvania, a Democratic-leaning state, where nevertheless Trump is still statistically tied with Clinton according to Quinnipiac. The same poll also shows both candidates tied in Ohio, another important swing state in the same region.
While the general election cycle is still early yet, these numbers may suggest Trump’s most likely — and perhaps only — winning strategy. If the Donald hopes to attain victory in November, he needs to focus his attention and resources on wresting one key area away from the Democrats: the Rust Belt.
Electorally, the likelihood of Trump making significant headway in other swing states is not looking great. As mentioned earlier, polling is showing Florida moving away from him. Trump’s documented difficulty in winning over Mormons — a key Republican voting constituency in many Western states — plus shifting demographics may push Western swing states such as Nevada and Colorado out of reach. And while Trump may be able to win smaller swing states such as Iowa and New Hampshire, the votes he would gain from those victories would not be nearly enough to overcome the Democrats’ present, built-in electoral advantage.
That brings us to the Rust Belt. States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are places where there is evidence Trump’s pro-worker message is resonating strongly. The aforementioned polls show him very competitive in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and while polling has been too sparse in Michigan and Wisconsin to draw a conclusion, their similar demographics suggests Trump could make headway there too. Furthermore, and perhaps most surprisingly, recent reports point out the Clinton campaign and her allied PACs have chosen not to invest any advertising money in these states for the general election (yet), prompting FiveThirtyEight’s David Wasserman to suggest she could be making “a strategic miscalculation.”
It’s a miscalculation Trump must absolutely capitalize on if he hopes to win. Otherwise, Republicans could be watching a rerun of 2008 and 2012 when Election Night 2016 finally comes around.
Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.