Analysis: Despite Momentum, New PA, FL, GA Polls Illustrate Trump's Uphill Battle

Posted: Sep 19, 2016 3:33 PM

With so much of the national and state-level polling momentum moving in Donald Trump's direction, and the contours of the race getting re-shaped over the past month, many Republicans now believe Trump is the frontrunner. This is a stretch, even as it's nice to see that some partisans' faith in non-"rigged" polling has been miraculously restored. There is no doubt that he is much better positioned to win than he was after the conventions, but that doesn't mean he's in the lead. With a few outliers in both directions, this race is virtually tied nationally, and Trump has made significant headway in key battlegrounds. But a spate of new swing state surveys underscores the challenges he still faces. First, here's fresh Siena/UpshotNYT data out of Florida showing Hillary barely edging Trump in a state that he absolutely, positively cannot afford to lose:

This is well within the margin of error, obviously, as is Trump's razor thin average Florida lead. It's a dogfight down there.  Trump enjoys a sizable advantage among white voters (+21), but trails heavily among Hispanics and blacks, attracting 21 and four percent among those groups, respectively (almost identical to Mitt Romney's performance in the state).  In the Senate Race, Marco Rubio leads his Democratic opponent by six points. Moving up the east coast, Monmouth University's pollster -- which delivered good Iowa and Nevada news to the Trump campaign last week -- shows an uncomfortably close contest in Georgia. As we've seen elsewhere, the GOP's Senate candidate is running far ahead of the party's presidential nominee in the state:

Isakson's seat isn't considered much of a target for Democrats, but it's still notable that he's outperforming Trump by 13 points.  Trump holds a wide lead across the state, but is getting pummeled in Greater Atlanta, hence the competitive top line.  And that brings us to Pennsylvania, which quite a few analysts see as the linchpin of any realistic Trump victory path.  With so many public opinion measures lurching in Trump's direction, surely a new Keystone State poll would detect similar movement, right?  Not yet, according to a Muhlenberg/Morning Call survey, which shows Hillary maintaining a sizable lead...with Trump at 32 percent in a four-way race.  In case you were curious, this poll was in the field entirely after Hillary's health incident:

As that tweet indicates, both candidates are deeply unpopular (though Trump's unfavorable margin is 11 points worse than Clinton's), and although he's outpacing Trump's level of support by six points, Republican Senator Pat Toomey still trails in his race.  I'd be remiss if I didn't flag some unusual data points in this poll, such as Clinton tying Trump with men and with voters without college degrees, and besting him among independents.  Polling elsewhere shows Trump with a male gender gap edge and leading with independents.  Trump is also struggling to consolidate Republicans behind his candidacy in this survey, whereas he's improved significantly on that metric in national polls.  Do those factors mean it's fair to call the Muhlenberg data an outlier?  Not really. Since August, statewide Pennsylvania polls have shown Clinton leads of nine, nine, nine, three, eight, five, eight, five, and now eight again.  So this overall result looks right on point.  Just as I said that the release of a very competitive survey in the state could trigger panic among Democrats, if another poll or two in Pennsylvania shows no signs of a pro-Trump tip, that could be viewed as a blow to his chances.  I'll leave you with the obvious caveat that none of the numbers analyzed in this post reflect how the public's mood may have changed after a weekend of terrorist attacks, as well as another measure of the Republican nominee's intensity supremacy: