Blue Firewall: New Battleground Polls Illustrate Trump's Tall Task

Guy Benson
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Posted: Nov 02, 2016 3:05 PM
Blue Firewall: New Battleground Polls Illustrate Trump's Tall Task

Before digging into the fresh polling numbers, go back and read my post from this morning detailing how Donald Trump could thread the needle and beat Hillary Clinton next Tuesday. The long of the short of it is that his most/only realistic shot requires carrying every Romney state -- adding Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Iowa -- then finding at least 11 electoral votes in one or more blue states. Part of that equation could be Nevada, where the GOP nominee has a slim polling average lead, boosted by a new CNN survey showing Trump up six. Veteran Nevada politicos are dousing CNN's numbers (which also show Joe Heck narrowly leading the Senate race) with ice water, but let's just take the top line average at face value for now.

All of those positive developments would put Trump at 265 electoral votes. Where would he scrape together those final five?  New Hampshire plus one of Maine's electoral votes is one possibility, assuming Hillary doesn't grab a Nebraska electoral vote (which she might). But Hillary has nearly a five point average lead in the Granite State, which went for Obama twice.  Barring that, how about Pennsylvania? New data from Monmouth:

That survey shows tightening, as both parties' bases are now "home" for their respective candidates. But she's still ahead by four points, with CNN's pollster measuring the same margin (which may mitigate complaints about Monmouth's small sample size and pretty high margin of error). A pair of other polls have Trump within two points, but Clinton's average advantage is roughly five points. That's awfully tough to overcome. It's also worth noting that Pat Toomey has now trailed in eight consecutive polls of the Keystone State's Senate race, which is obviously an ominous sign for his campaign. In my Senate overview on Monday, I said I was tempted to shift this contest into the "lean Democrat pick-up" column. That now looks like a more solid bet. Back to the presidential race: If New Hampshire is out, and polling showing Pennsylvania once again eluding the GOP's grasp is accurate, then what? There's been a lot of buzz about Wisconsin over the last week, with Democrats suddenly shoveling more resources into the state. Could those ten electoral votes be up for grabs? Marquette University's polling outfit is the gold standard in the Badger State. Their much-anticipated final poll of the cycle shows...Clinton leading somewhat comfortably, virtually unchanged over the last month:

This poll's sample size is larger than usual, and its track record is strong. It also raised some eyebrows with its top line result in the Senate race, which has narrowed to a virtual tie (45/44) -- a promising sign for Republican incumbent Ron Johnson, who is said to be closing strong. Is it possible that Johnson will end up in the better position to hold his seat than Toomey? Very few people would have anticipated that even a few short weeks ago. Okay, moving along to other possibilities.  How about Michigan (16 EV's) or New Mexico (5 EV's), where Team Trump is making a final push? There hasn't been a ton of polling in the latter state, where Clinton's lead fluctuated between four and 13 points between August and October. It's a real stretch, particularly in a state with so many Hispanic voters, most of whom are repulsed by Trump.

And although one GOP pollster shows Michigan extremely tight, Hillary's lead of approximately seven points has been rock steady for weeks. Counterpoint: Michigan is one of the few states that pollsters blew badly in the 2016 primaries. Counter-counter-point: Every four years, Michigan seems achievable for the Republican ticket, but ends up being pretty far out of reach.  [UPDATE: I'll add Virginia into the mix, due to tightening there and Ed Gillespie's surprise near-miss in 2014, but her average lead is still about five points].  All of which is to say that my analysis this morning about Trump's chances was measured and qualified for good reason.  Even if  a lot of things break his way (and I'd caution that overconfidence in a place like North Carolina, despite questionable black turnout levels, would be foolish), he still has to navigate through some very choppy waters to win.  I'll leave you with my take on the state of the race from Brit Hume's program last evening -- via Right Sightings:

UPDATE - Just as this post went live, Quinnipiac released a slate of new numbers, which basically fortify my thesis, and show that Florida and North Carolina are not in the bag for Trump:

UPDATE II - And here's a shocking outlier poll out of Virginia, showing Trump edging into the lead. Proceed with extreme caution, although the battle in the Old Dominion has been closing for weeks. More data, please.  I should also probably toss Colorado's nine electoral votes into the mix, too.  She hasn't trailed in a single public poll there for well over a month, but her margin has shrunk to within three points.