Hillary Clinton appears to remain solidly ahead of Donald Trump in the presidential race, going into the campaign’s final 12 days.
Clinton’s lead in national polling averages is currently around 6 points, according to HuffPost Pollster and RealClearPolitics. That is down about a point from her lead of about 7 points early last week — a slight “tightening,” apparently driven by Republicans moving back into the Trump camp now that his leaked tape and sexual assault allegations are no longer dominating the news.
State polling remains quite strong for Clinton too. Her easiest way to win 270 electoral votes — winning the very blue states plus Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire — still appears to be within her grasp, since Trump hasn’t led any polls in any of those states in the past month.
And it should be noted that early voting and absentee voting are proceeding apace — more than 13 million people have already voted, according to University of Florida professor Michael McDonald’s Election Project. As Seth Masket points out, we shouldn’t read too much into early voting. Still, the inconclusive early signs seem to look at least somewhat promising for Democrats in swing states like North Carolina and Florida, which are both must-win states for Trump. The GOP nominee appears to be doing a bit better in Ohio and Iowa, though.
Now, Clinton’s campaign is trying to signal to supporters that they shouldn’t get complacent, blasting out a video where campaign manager Robby Mook claims they “expect things to get even closer before Election Day” and says that Trump “absolutely” could still win.
But on the other hand, Clinton’s campaign is signaling to its donors that they should focus their giving on competitive Senate races rather than the presidential contest, according to CNN’s Manu Raju.
It’s extremely rare for a campaign to suggest that it doesn’t want money, so this seems to indicate that Clinton’s team is extremely confident of victory at this point. Indeed, the major forecasting models give her above a 90 percent chance for winning, except for FiveThirtyEight, which puts her at a mere 84 percent in its polls-only forecast as of midday Thursday.
The state polls look either good or great for Clinton
For months, Hillary Clinton’s easiest path to an Electoral College majority has appeared to be through winning six states: Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.
And she still appears to be on track to make that happen, with room to spare. The latest HuffPost Pollster averages show her up at least 4.9 points in each of these six states. There have been zero polls in the past month showing Trump ahead in any of them.
Indeed, the best news Trump has gotten in any of these states lately is a single poll of New Hampshire by Monmouth University released Wednesday that showed Hillary Clinton winning by 4 points. Some commentators seized on this to argue that the race was tightening — but just hours later, NBC and the Wall Street Journal released a poll showing Clinton up by 9 points.
Winning those states (along with holding Maine, which Clinton is also winning) would be sufficient enough to give Clinton the presidency. And it gets worse for Trump from there.
Florida is an absolute must-win state for Trump, since there are 29 electoral votes in play. However, Trump has led just one of the past 11 polls there.
North Carolina — a state Mitt Romney won in 2012 — now looks to be leaning Clinton. Sixteen of the past 17 polls of the state have shown her ahead.
The Clinton campaign is even making a big push into Arizona, which has been a red state for decades, and is funding voter turnout pushes to help Democratic Senate candidates in Indiana and Missouri, two states Trump is expected to win.
And finally there’s the strange case of Utah, a state Romney won by 48 points. Trump is very unpopular among Mormons, who make up about two-thirds of the state’s population, and several leading politicians in the state condemned and unendorsed him after his leaked tape scandal. And lately, polling shows third-party candidate Evan McMullin (who is Mormon) surging, to the point where he may have a shot to actually win (or tip Utah to Clinton).
The upshot of all this is that Trump has gotten mostly bad news in state races in the past few weeks and faces a tremendously difficult time winning 270 electoral votes.
There’s some variation in the national polls, but most show a solid Clinton lead
Most polls show a lead for Clinton somewhere in the mid-single digits, and it’s generally best practice to look at the average in situations like these.
But there are occasional polls with different methodologies that show a race that looks quite different. For instance, the Associated Press-GfK conducts an online panel poll that shows a Clinton landslide where she beats Trump by 14.
And three other polls — from Los Angeles Times/USC Dornsife, Rasmussen, and Investor’s Business Daily — have consistently shown a race where Trump is actually quite close to Clinton and sometimes even leading. However, Rasmussen polls have long been known for having a pro-GOP lean, and the other two outlets have made some unusual methodological decisions, as the Upshot and the Washington Post have described.
The wide spread here is certainly intriguing, but the state-level data and the signals the campaigns are sending indicate that the major actors generally believe the consensus of the averages and forecasts — that Clinton remains solidly ahead.