by Paul Dupont
A new Florida poll from Suffolk University was released today showing Donald Trump with a slim, single-point lead over Hillary Clinton. But while this was only the latest poll showing a close race in the Sunshine State, it was enough to tip RealClearPolitics’ Florida polling average in the direction of Trump, who now leads by a slender 0.1-point margin. This means, going by RCP’s polling average in each state, Trump has closed to within six electoral votes of Clinton if the election were held today:
So, assuming all current polling is generally accurate, Trump still needs to see significant gains in one more state — as well as holding his leads in every current red state — in order to defeat Clinton. While this is admittedly a tall order, the electoral map does appear incredibly more favorable to Trump than it did only a month or two ago.
But which remaining blue state does Trump stand the best chance of flipping? The following are his most likely possibilities (in no particular order):
Not long ago, media outlets were writing the obituary for the Trump campaign in Colorado, as shifting demographics appeared to put the normally purple state out of play for Republicans. However, limited polling in the state since the beginning of September has shown a narrowing race. A survey from early this month showed Clinton’s lead down from double digits to just five points, while another more recent poll from Emerson gave Trump a four-point lead. There are also growing concerns among Democrats that independent candidates, such as the Libertarian Gary Johnson, may be pulling more votes from Clinton than Trump, especially among young voters. All this adds up to a state race that looks increasingly fluid and which could go either way in the next few weeks.
For such a pivotal swing state, Pennsylvania has seen a shocking lack of polling since the end of the summer. RealClearPolitics shows only one major Pennsylvania poll released in the last two weeks — and that poll showed Clinton with a solid nine-point lead. However, with almost no other results to compare it to, it is tough to know exactly where things stands in the Keystone State. Polling earlier this year seemed to show the race in Pennsylvania tracking very similarly to the race nationally, so it would be surprising if Trump had not closed the gap, especially given his frequent trips to the state. Nevertheless, absent further numbers, it is very difficult to know what Trump’s chances of winning actually are.
Converse to Colorado, New Hampshire is a state where independent candidates seem to be hurting Trump more than Clinton. The most recent poll out of the Granite State from Monmouth shows Trump down a whopping nine points to Clinton, running far behind his fellow statewide Republican candidates: incumbent GOP Senator Kelly Ayotte held a two-point lead, while Republican gubernatorial hopeful Chris Sununu is up six points. The primary culprit for this discrepancy appears to be the Libertarian Gary Johnson, who is pulling in 10 percent of the state’s vote overall and 14 percent of independents, helping to fuel a seven-point deficit for Trump among in the latter category (by contrast, both Ayotte and Sununu lead their Democratic opponents among independents). Given that independent voters make up an estimated 40 percent of New Hampshire’s electorate — larger than any other group in the state — Trump will need to turn around his fortunes here in order to win.
Virginia is another state that seemed to be slipping away from Trump as the summer came to a close, but September polling has been inconsistent, showing Trump with anywhere from a one- to eleven-point deficit. While the RealClearPolitics average still shows Trump in a five-point hole, Republicans in recent statewide races have tended to vastly outperform polling — GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli beat the polling average by 3.5 points in 2013, while Senate candidate Ed Gillespie did so by nearly 9 points in 2014. It would be foolish to count Trump out here until the final ballots are tallied.
One of the most surprising state-level polls to be released recently came out of Maine, where the Maine People’s Resource Center shows Trump in a statistical tie with Clinton statewide in a four-way race. A few polls now have shown Trump leading in Maine’s 2nd congressional district (remember that Maine rewards two of its electoral votes to the leading vote-getter in each of its two congressional districts), so it would not be a shock for Republicans to come away with one of Maine’s electoral votes in November. But it would be a huge surprise if Trump were to win the entire state, a state President Obama won by over 15 points in 2012. Nevertheless, this now appears to be a possible outcome.
*There is a caveat, however: Clinton still holds a sizable lead in Maine’s first congressional district, meaning that Trump would likely only come away with three of the state’s four electoral votes in a best-case scenario and leaving Clinton ahead 270-268 in the overall electoral count barring any other changes. Thus, a win in Maine would still most likely leave Trump behind.
These, of course, are not the only possible hinge states for Trump, as Wisconsin, Michigan and others have also commonly been discussed as blue states which could be in play for Republicans. However, it is difficult to see these states flipping without one or more of the above states also turning red. As it stands now, Trump’s best hope for victory probably involves a win in either Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania or Virginia. Otherwise, he is likely to come up just short.
Paul Dupont is the managing editor for ThePulse2016.com.