As promised earlier -- and please do go back and read my commentary on Trump's 'Brexit' comparison from this morning, if you haven't seen it -- here's my candid look at how Trump might manage to pull this thing off. Now, why do I say "gone" in the headline? Isn't it too early to count any swing states out? It's not. Barring a seismic political event that significantly alters the landscape (think another Kremlin-orchestrated email dump that results in Hillary's indictment), Colorado and Virginia shouldn't be considered 2016 presidential battlegrounds anymore. Here's the latest data release from Quinnipiac, which has been a fairly GOP-friendly pollster over the last few cycles:
He's down double digits in both states here, and neither result is an outlier. The RCP average is Hillary +11 in Virginia, and...Hillary +11 in Colorado. The demographics and trends in each state render Trump comebacks highly unlikely. There's a reason why pro-Hillary forces have already begun withdrawing resources from both, and it's not because they're rash or stupid. These are sophisticated, data-driven decisions. The reports that they're also walking away from Pennsylvania are more troubling for Team Trump. The Keystone State is the type of place that a Trump-like GOP nominee should theoretically be able to put up a strong fight. But as of now, Hillary has surged to a nine-point average advantage in the state, with the last four public polls showing him trailing by double-digits. Stated candidly, it's triage time for the Trump campaign, which has just undergone another major shuffle of top personnel. Delusions about the deep blue states Trump once bragged about putting into play must be buried. It's not happening. Wisconsin and Michigan -- where Trump is spending time this week -- are also almost certainly beyond his realistic reach. Keep in mind that Trump has no voter turnout operation to speak of, and believes he doesn't need one.
At this point, it's not "early" anymore, and I believe Trump has one remotely plausible path to the White House. He must carry every state Mitt Romney won in 2012 (much easier said than done), then flip four states into his column: Iowa, Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. At the moment, Trump is running relatively well in the first two states on that list; he trails Clinton by less than a point in Iowa (or substitute in Nevada, with the same number of electoral votes), and is within the margin of error in Buckeye Country. Trump should tend to these states with some urgency, and perhaps deploy Mike Pence to potentially vulnerable red states like Arizona, North Carolina, Missouri and Georgia while he's at it. It should go without saying that if they truly need to play defense in Texas, this ballgame is ovah. The real heavy lifting comes in the latter two states, where Trump is falling dangerously behind. His average deficit in Florida is just under five points, but the last two surveys down there measure a more daunting seven-point hole. That bleeding must be stopped; those 29 electoral votes, and Florida's Senate seat, are too precious.
As for Pennsylvania, read this piece (also linked above) for an analysis of why -- on paper -- Trump should have more appeal there than he's currently demonstrating. For that reason, the calculation ought to be made to "pick" PA over VA or CO -- where Trump is getting crushed by Gary Johnson among young voters. Pennsylvania should be the friendliest terrain, and it's by far the biggest electoral vote prize of the three. Trump needs to criss-cross the state with a honed, disciplined economic message, and stick to it. (I know, I know). It's his best chance of chipping away at Hillary's lead there. I'll also add the evergreen comment that the debates are extremely important, especially the first one, when it comes to mitigating Trump's yawning temperament and qualification gaps.
Amid mounting criticism over his total lack of general election ad spending, Trump is finally going up on air this week. Where? Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. If I were advising the campaign, I'd take every dime of that Virginia money and redeploy it to some combination of Iowa and the handful of Romney states that might be in danger. Feel free to play around with 270toWin's widget and find a more realistic path for Trump than I've laid out. This is mine, based on all of the available polling data and electoral trends. Very tough sledding at this stage, but here you have it:
Verrrrry tough sledding at this stage, but this is Trump's most realistic path to 270+, IMO: pic.twitter.com/D8dpDvCYMp— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) August 17, 2016
UPDATE: This is why turning the tide in Pennsylvania is so crucial: