The media has grown obsessed with driving the narrative that Hillary Clinton has this election in the bag. Supposedly, according to our elite overlords, this election is so over. You might as well stay home!
But when you analyze the data, placed in context, especially on a state-by-state basis, this narrative reveals itself to be ridiculous. The presidential race is still very close. It’s not over yet.
Some pollsters say Clinton is up double digits. Others say the race is a virtual tie. The stark differences can be chalked up to differing turnout models: Will Democrats turn out for Hillary Clinton like they did for Barack Obama, as many of these models that show Clinton up double digits presume? Or will Donald Trump add new voters to Romney’s insufficient 2012 coalition and surprise with a victory? It’s hard to tell.
But regardless, national polling numbers matter little. The electoral college determines the next president. So for that, we look to state polling numbers.
And state polling has been very close.
Remember, for Trump to become president, he just needs to deny Hillary Clinton a victory and get to an electoral tie, 269-269, at which point the House of Representatives would pick a president, and presumably, the Republican House would pick Trump.
Here are the top five battleground states Trump needs to win to make that happen:
5.) Florida and Ohio
Okay, maybe I meant top six. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Trump wins without winning Florida (29 electoral votes) and Ohio (18). The good news is that he is within striking distance in both states. Ohio is a dead heat (RealClearPolitics average of Trump +1) and Florida is within the margin of error (RealClearPolitics average of Clinton +4).
The Trump campaign is spending a lot of money in Florida and Ohio — $5.2 million in Florida and $1.3 million in Ohio during the first two weeks of October.
Polling hasn’t looked great in recent weeks (RealClearPolitics average of Clinton +7), but the Trump campaign continues to believe it’s winnable, spending more than $1 million on TV ads in Colorado during the first two weeks of October. This has been part of a months-long campaign strategy focusing attention on Colorado, a state many wrote off for Trump over the summer. I’m willing to bet the Trump folks know something we don’t.
Look for Colorado to surprise a lot of people on Election Night. And if it does, Colorado’s nine electoral votes open up a number of paths to victory for the Trump campaign.
3.) North Carolina
Like Florida and Ohio, it’s hard to imagine a scenario — Michigan? Pennsylvania, maybe? — where Trump wins without North Carolina. The Trump campaign is very much aware of this fact — they have been on-air with campaign ads nonstop since mid-August.
Clinton currently enjoys a small two point lead, according to the RealClearPolitics average, but that lead appears to be in jeopardy. Paul Dupont reported earlier today for The Pulse 2016 that Governor McCrory is surging against his Democratic opponent, while GOP Senate candidate Richard Burr now leads his Democratic opponent by several points. These shifting dynamics should help Trump considerably in what will almost assuredly be a nail-biter.
Trump needs to win either Iowa or Nevada, and it seems like Iowa is the better candidate right now. Both states are worth six electoral votes. RealClearPolitics gives Clinton a four-point edge in Nevada, while Trump enjoys a four-point lead in Iowa. (Caveat: few state polls have been conducted in either state in recent weeks, which makes it very difficult to project. Could someone please do some polling? Where’s a good polling company when you need one?)
So, if you’re counting at home, if Trump wins these key battleground states, that would put the race at 270-268 in favor of Clinton. Not good enough.
1.) Maine’s 2nd Congressional District
Maine is weird. The statewide popular vote determines two of its four electoral votes, while the results in each of Maine’s two congressional districts determine the fate of the other two. In 2012, Maine cast its four electoral votes for Barack Obama. But this is a post-Trump world, where strange things happen, and Maine’s 2nd congressional district (ME-2) appears to be in a pro-Trump mood. The last three polls out of ME-2 show Clinton +1, Trump +5, and Trump +10.
If Trump wins the 2nd congressional district by a single vote, Hillary Clinton would be stuck on 269 electoral votes, and the Republican House of Representatives would determine the next president:
Think this path is unrealistic? For the purposes of this exercise, we credited Clinton with key battleground states like Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania — a state Clinton only leads by four points, according to a poll from Emerson last week. There are other paths for Trump. But this one seems the easiest.
This race isn’t over. It’s going to be close. Don’t let anybody tell you differently. Go vote.
Jon Schweppe is the Communications Director at American Principles Project.