Trump’s shrinking electoral map

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In polls, he trails Clinton in all battleground states and some, like Virginia and Colorado, seem already beyond his reach.

Donald Trump’s path to the presidency is closing off, state by state.

More than a half-dozen traditional, must-win battleground states are falling off the map as Hillary Clinton surges ahead of Trump in the polls. And it’s left Trump — who isn’t answering Clinton’s advertising in the swing states — with little plausible route to 270 electoral votes barring a major, sudden change to the dynamics of the race.

Florida? Clinton leads by 9 points in a new Monmouth University poll out Tuesday. New Hampshire? The most recent live-telephone poll there had Clinton up by 15 points. North Carolina, which has voted for the Republican in eight of the past nine presidential elections? Clinton led by 9 in a poll there last week.

George W. Bush won Colorado and Virginia in both 2000 and 2004 before Barack Obama flipped them narrowly in 2008 and 2012.

Now? Both states are virtually off the board: Quinnipiac University polls on Wednesday gave Clinton double-digit leads in both states. Additionally, Clinton led by 8 points in Virginia in a new Washington Post poll out Tuesday, and she had a 14-point lead in a Colorado survey last week. Clinton’s campaign is confident enough in her current standing in those states to, at least temporarily, suspend television advertising there.

Nor has Trump made inroads in the upper Midwest, where some Republicans hoped his accentuated appeal among working-class white voters could help the GOP break through in states the party hasn’t won since the 1980s. Clinton leads by 10 points in the most recent poll in Michigan, and she is up 15 points among likely voters in Wisconsin, according to a well-respected pollster there.

Taken together, the state polling paints a bleak picture for Trump: He currently trails in all 11 of the states identified by POLITICO as Electoral College battlegrounds. If all safely Democratic states are allocated to Clinton, plus the seven swing states where her lead is greater than 5 points in POLITICO’s Battleground States polling average (Colorado, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin), Clinton would reach 302 electoral votes, 32 more than necessary to win.

And that doesn’t even include North Carolina, where Clinton is up by an average of 4 points, despite the most-recent poll there giving her a lead of twice that margin. Or Nevada or Ohio, where Clinton leads by about 2 points. Adding those would give Clinton 341 electoral votes.

Nor does it include traditionally Republican states where polls show Clinton is competitive. Republicans have won Georgia in seven of the past eight elections, but Clinton’s campaign is at least nodding to competing there. Same for Arizona, which has gone Republican in 15 of the past 16 elections. (Bill Clinton is the exception for both states, winning Georgia in 1992 and Arizona in 1996.)

All told, Clinton’s more robust efforts in the swing states — television advertising and field operations — make it harder for the less-active Trump to dislodge her lead. And that also frees Clinton up to pursue Arizona and Georgia, or even Indiana and Missouri.

“The Clinton campaign is now expanding the battlefield,” said Marist College pollster Lee Miringoff, who conducted seven state polls after the conventions for NBC News and The Wall Street Journal. “Normally when you widen the battlefield, part of the reason is that you force the opponent to divert resources. But given that the Trump campaign doesn’t have a big ground game or a big air game, the Clinton campaign is simply an invading army gobbling up territory.”

At the same time, Trump’s campaign insists it is on offense in reliably Democratic territory. Trump himself has campaigned in Maine and Connecticut in recent weeks, and Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is appearing at events in New Mexico on Tuesday. (Obama won all three states by double-digit margins in both 2008 and 2012.)

This past week brought more bad news for Trump in the more traditional battlegrounds, showing him trailing by high-single-digit margins in Florida and Virginia, even among likely voters. Both states are more diverse than the nation as a whole, which favors Clinton. But both polls show Trump is weak with traditional Republican constituencies, too.

The Florida poll shows Clinton with a huge lead among nonwhite voters, 69 percent to 19 percent. Trump has a 14-point edge among white voters, 51 percent to 37 percent, but that lags Mitt Romney’s 24-point victory among whites four years ago. Despite his big victory among white voters, Romney narrowly lost the state to Obama.

Trump’s failure to match Romney’s support among white voters is mostly due to his weakness among white women. Clinton leads among white women in Florida by 10 points, 49 percent to 39 percent. Romney won white women by 17 points in 2012, according to the exit poll, 58 percent to 41 percent.

In Virginia, Trump leads by just 8 points among white voters and is running, net, 18 points behind Romney among Republican voters, the Post poll shows.

That resembles polls from other states, including Wisconsin, where a Marquette Law School survey last week showed Clinton ahead by 15 points.

“In our data, Republicans are notably less unified than Democrats are,” said Marquette Law School pollster Charles Franklin. “Republicans are more likely to see the divisions continue until November.”

Even as he’s floundering nationally, Trump is still running relatively stronger in other battlegrounds, like Iowa, Nevada and Ohio. Clinton’s lead over Trump in those states is 2 points or fewer in the POLITICO Battleground States polling average, and she led by 3 points in a Quinnipiac University Iowa poll out last Wednesday.

But those combine for just 30 electoral votes, just one more than Florida. Even if Trump carried those three and, excepting North Carolina, all the other Romney states, he’d still be at just 221 electoral votes — 49 short of the winning threshold.

 

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