For the first time in a long time we have seen the national and state polls converge. In June and July, even when Trump was closing on Clinton nationally the state polls still showed consistent leads for Clinton. Nobody admitted seeing a path to victory for Trump.
But now, for the first time, the state and national polls are converging. Trump is in a tie with Clinton in almost every recent national survey (2-way and 4-way and as a result he has jumped ahead in Ohio and Florida (both states that lean slightly more right of center than the nation). Additionally, he has created an outsized advantage in Iowa and leads in the most recent survey of Nevada due to his strength among non-college educated whites.
In 2012 Mitt Romney carried 24 states that gave him 206 electoral votes. By themselves these states give Trump an additional 59 electoral votes on which to build upon Mitt Romney’s total. If we also assume that Trump’s strength in Maine’s 2nd CD is real he nets an additional vote.
This puts Trump at a very real 266 votes. Even if we assume North Carolina is no better than a toss-up Trump could very well make up those 15 votes by winning another Midwestern state like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan (in which the latest polls show he is within 3-5 points) or some other combination of votes from a Colorado and New Hampshire.
Unsurprisingly, Democrats scoff at the notion that Trump has a path to victory. They point to his very real weaknesses with key demographic groups-college educated whites, women, and minorities-as proof he cannot win. But it is very possible Trump wins the election without winning the popular vote. Fivethirtyeight’s David Wasserman presented an excellent example of how this could occur.
First, the majority of minority and college educated votes are consolidated in already solidly blue states (California, WA State, Oregon on the Pacific Coast and NY State, Massachusetts, Connecticut on the East). Hispanic votes would be wasted for Clinton in the majority of places as would college educated whites votes.
Secondly, Trump’s weakness in red states is not appearing to be enough to put these states in play for Clinton. Sure, from a polling perspective it makes red states like Missouri and Texas look competitive on the surface. But dig deeper and you see that even if minority turnout skyrocketed in both combined with college educated whites leaving Trump in mass he would still win both in squeakers.
Now, Clinton still has more paths to the White House. She can shed Ohio and Florida and win every other state Obama won and still get to the White House. Trump still has to win an additional big state or some combination that gets him to at least 269 votes (the House votes for the President in a tie).
But here is the thing. With state and national polls converging we are seeing Trump find surprising strength in states with high numbers of college-educated whites. For example, Virginia has narrowed and Colorado is looking more and more like 2012.
From 266 votes all Trump would need is one of these states to narrowly take the Electoral College. Worse for the Clinton camp is that despite the demographic and political shifts Trump’s nomination has caused swing states still tend to vote the same way. So, even if Trump only narrowly wins the popular vote for example the majority of swing states will probably go his way.
Of course, if anything this campaign has shown us things can change quickly. But for the first time in a long time the Trump campaign finally has a plausible path to victory.