Donald Trump’s post-convention collapse has hurt him in the polls across the country. But it’s really hurt his numbers in some crucial swing states in particular — states that would be enough to give Hillary Clinton an Electoral College majority.
Now Trump is trailing in an average of post-convention poll results for every swing state from the past two cycles. That includes, of course, the traditional powerhouses of Florida and Ohio, where Clinton has taken single-digit leads.
But there are six states that have moved especially dramatically in Clinton’s direction.
Four of these — Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire — have pretty consistently supported Democratic presidential candidates for decades, and are returning to old form despite speculation that Trump could put them in play this year.
There are another two — Virginia and Colorado — that appear to have transformed. They were solid Republican states in presidential years as recently as 2004. But Barack Obama won them twice, and Clinton is now leading in both by very comfortable double-digit margins.
If those six swing state leads hold up, they’ll be enough to give Clinton the presidency even if the national race tightens enough to let Trump win the old standbys of Ohio and Florida.
Clinton currently has very large leads in enough states to give her the presidency
Clinton starts off with a bloc of 201 votes or so that have always seemed to solidly be in her column (give or take one electoral vote from Maine’s second congressional district).
But then there’s a set of six more states where, since the convention, she’s consistently run up really big polling leads — 9 points or above, on average. So if she adds just those six states to her bloc and nothing else, she’ll win 273 electoral votes and therefore the presidency.
These six swing states that seem to be most clearly tipping toward Clinton are Michigan, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Colorado, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
Michigan and Wisconsin are two states that haven’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate in more than two decades. Yet Obama’s margin of victory in each shrank by about 7 points between 2008 and 2012, and some theorized that Trump could expand the map with white voters throughout the economically troubled "Rust Belt." That’s never really been borne out by polling this year, though, and post-convention polls put Clinton ahead by 9 to 10 points in Michigan and 15 in Wisconsin.
New Hampshire has voted Democrat in the past three presidential elections, but Obama’s margin of victory was only 5.5 points in 2012, and it has looked relatively close in polls for much of the year. But since the conventions, not so much — one poll shows Clinton leading Trump by 15, and a Republican-leaning poll shows her up by 10.
Colorado and Virginia were two key swing states in the past two elections, but they now increasingly look out of reach for Trump, and that has major implications for the electoral math. Post-convention polls show Clinton up 12 to 13 points in Virginia and 14 in Colorado. Even more revealingly, the Clinton campaign has stopped running ads in both states for the time being, which suggests that their private polling also indicates she is solidly ahead in both states.
Both states have been getting more diverse of late, but the Upshot’s Nate Cohn points to another problem Trump might be having in each: He underperforms previous Republican candidates with college-educated white voters, and there are a lot of those voters in both Colorado and Virginia.
Pennsylvania then becomes a must-win state for Trump if the previous five are out of his reach. The state has voted for Democrats in every presidential election since 1988 — but by smaller and smaller margins, as David Wasserman has written. Plus, the state’s population is older and the economy is more geared toward blue-collar manufacturing, which would seem to fit the (dubious) idea some have of the stereotypical Trump voter.
Yet since the Democratic convention — which just so happened to be in Pennsylvania — wrapped up, Trump’s numbers in the state have been disastrous. He’s trailing Clinton by 10 points or more in four of the five most recent polls.
In other swing states, Trump is doing slightly better (but still losing)
If Clinton does manage to win those six swing states and keep her bloc solid, the question won’t be whether she’ll win but rather how big her victory will be.
Her next best opportunities are in another set of five traditional swing states — ones that she appears to have an edge in, but where her advantage is smaller than her nationwide lead, according to the latest polls.
Florida and Nevada have long been expected to tip toward Clinton due to their growing Hispanic populations, but polls have shown both states to be surprisingly close. (In an average of post-convention polls, Clinton is up 3.6 points in Florida and 1.5 points in Nevada.) Perhaps the polls are having difficulty accounting for the preferences of Hispanic voters, or perhaps Trump is making up for that deficit by winning white voters overwhelmingly.
Ohio and Iowa, meanwhile, do appear to be slightly more favorable to Trump than the national average, largely due to the strength of his performance among white voters in each. Post-convention polling averages put Clinton up 4.5 points in Ohio and up 1.5 in Iowa.
Then there is the interesting case of North Carolina. Mitt Romney won the Tar Heel State in 2012 after Obama’s narrow victory there in 2008, but similar demographic changes to those taking place in Virginia — more nonwhite voters, more educated white voters — seem to be strengthening Democrats’ position. Clinton has narrowly led polling averages there for most of the year, and the one nonpartisan post-convention poll gave her an eye-popping 9-point lead (though it remains an outlier for the moment).
But again, the big picture here is that Trump probably can’t afford to lose any of those five states, and he’s currently losing in all of them.
And from there, the picture for Trump just gets grimmer. Neither Georgia nor Arizona has been considered a swing state in any recent cycle, but Trump appears to have just a very narrow lead in each (helped by, you guessed it, demographic change).
Plus, there are occasional polls that show Trump only narrowly ahead in even deep red states like Kansas, South Carolina, and Utah. These states have been so staunchly Republican that it’s probably too early to consider them truly up for grabs. But the fact that they’re even this close is a testament to just how massive Trump’s challenges are at this point.