Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief today, as a new release from a highly respected Wisconsin pollster shows Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by 6 percentage points among likely voters in the state.
The Wisconsin result, from Marquette Law, is significant because the state is a crucial part of Clinton’s six-state “firewall” — her easiest path to winning an Electoral College majority and staving off a late surge from Donald Trump.
Furthermore, new polls of Pennsylvania, another key firewall state for Clinton, suggest her lead is holding up there as well, despite a tightening national race and days of headlines about the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails.
Since August, it’s appeared that Clinton’s easiest path to topping 270 electoral votes (and therefore winning the presidency) has been through winning the solidly Democratic states along with six “lean Democrat” states: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, and New Hampshire.
Those six states have been called Clinton’s “firewall,” since she’s generally led there by more than she’s led other contested swing states like Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio. If she theoretically dropped a few points nationwide, she could lose those three states, while her lead in the firewall and in the electoral college could still hold.
Trump hasn’t led a single poll in any of the firewall states since at least September and in most cases since much earlier. Naturally, Clinton has remained comfortably ahead in all six states’ polling averages.
The problem, though, was that there hadn’t been very many high-quality polls from these firewall states lately. We’ve mainly gotten results from robo-polls, partisan pollsters, and online polls. So some feared that those state polling averages could be lagging a national recent shift toward Trump, even in Clinton’s firewall states, that we might not know about yet.
But finally, this polling drought is coming to an end.
Most notably, the Marquette Law School poll released its final results Wednesday afternoon. This Wisconsin poll has had a striking record of accuracy in recent years, with its final result always coming within a couple of points of the final margin in the state’s three recent gubernatorial elections and its recent presidential contest (or getting the outcome spot-on).
So Marquette’s finding that Clinton is still ahead of Trump by 6 points was taken as a strong sign that the race hasn’t fundamentally shifted, and that Clinton remains ahead in this important state.
We’ve also seen a series of new polls of Pennsylvania, another hugely important firewall state for Clinton — and they all show her ahead. CNN/ORC shows her up 4, Susquehanna shows her up 2, Monmouth shows her up 4, and Franklin & Marshall shows her up 11.
Trump hasn’t led a single poll of Wisconsin all year, and he hasn’t led any Pennsylvania polls since July.
New polling has been more mixed for Clinton in states like Florida, North Carolina, and Nevada — but those states aren’t part of her firewall. If she’s still on track to win Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, then she’s still likely on track to win the election.