Will Trump or Clinton win? The 11 states deciding the race

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By Niall Stanage 

The final sprint toward Election Day has begun, and Donald Trump is reeling in Hillary Clinton’s lead.

A new CNN/ORC poll on Tuesday morning showed Trump leading by 2 points nationally, sending shockwaves through Democratic ranks. Clinton’s advantage in the RealClearPolitics polling average was down to 3.3 points, less than half of what it was at its peak.

For all that, however, the Democratic nominee remains the favorite to win the White House — in part because of her strength in the battleground states that will decide the election.

Clinton has succeeded in making some Republican redoubts competitive, including Georgia and Arizona. But the election will come down to the same states that have decided most recent presidential contests.

The Hill took a look at where things stand in those 11 states.

OHIO

Trump can take heart from the fact that he is performing stronger in Ohio than in many other battlegrounds.

A Washington Post/SurveyMonkey poll of all 50 states published Tuesday showed the GOP nominee with a 3-point lead in the state. Another recent poll, from Emerson College, had the race tied. As of Tuesday afternoon, however, Clinton still held a 3.3-point lead in the RealClearPolitics average.

The demographics go some way toward explaining the tightness of the race. Only 3 percent of Ohio voters in 2012 were Latino, according to exit polls. The proportion of voters who were college graduates was just 40 percent, the lowest figure among the 11 battleground states highlighted here.

That should make Ohio fertile ground for Trump’s core appeal to blue-collar whites.

Still, the Clinton campaign is leaning on traditional tactics to win the state. Her campaign had 36 field offices there to Trump’s 16 at the end of August, according to a recent “PBS NewsHour” analysis. On TV, Clinton and her allies are outspending their Republican counterparts by a huge amount. They have booked around $22 million of broadcast TV ads between now and November, compared with less than $2 million for Trump and his backers, Ad Age reported after examining data from Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.

FLORIDA

Florida is the biggest single prize among the battlegrounds, with 29 electoral votes. Of the four most recent major polls of the state, Clinton and Trump each led two. No result showed an advantage of more than 2 percentage points for either candidate.

Florida is also one of the most expensive states in which to compete. Clinton and her allies have booked almost $34 million in ads there, according to Ad Age and Kantar Media.

The outlook is more optimistic for Trump than many observers expected, given that 17 percent of Florida voters in 2012 were Latino and the traditional loyalty of Cuban-Americans to the GOP has been weakening.

But could Trump’s skeletal campaign cost him? He had only one field office in the state in late August, compared with 34 for Clinton, according to the PBS figures.

VIRGINIA

One of Clinton’s strongest states among the battlegrounds, Virginia is Exhibit A in how the electoral map is changing.

The commonwealth was a Republican stronghold until 2008, when President Obama became the first Democrat to carry it since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. But forecasting site FiveThirtyEight now gives Clinton a greater than 80 percent chance of repeating Obama’s feat. She is 5 points ahead in the RealClearPolitics average.

Another telling fact: Neither Clinton nor Trump have major broadcast advertising planned for the state, according to Ad Age.

Twenty percent of Virginia voters were black in 2012 — a group that polls show has little support for Trump. Another group largely uninterested in Trump — college graduates — cast 54 percent of the votes there in 2012, the highest figure in any of these 11 states.

NORTH CAROLINA

In another example of the changing nature of the South, Clinton seems to have a slight edge in North Carolina. The mere fact that she is competitive says a lot: Obama became the first Democrat in three decades to carry the state in 2008, and he lost there in 2012.

Right now, Clinton has a very small lead in the RealClearPolitics average. But she has 30 field offices in the state, while Trump is not known to have any. She and her allies have booked $16 million in ads there, to just $1 million for Trump.

Just as vitally for Clinton, African-Americans cast a bigger share of the total votes there in 2012 — 23 percent — than in any other battleground.

PENNSYLVANIA

The Trump campaign has long talked up its chances of prevailing in Pennsylvania, but so far, that looks unlikely. Clinton has a lead of more than 6 points in the RealClearPolitics average.

Republicans have consistently sought to flip Pennsylvania, but they have come up short in every election since 1988.

Of the total votes cast in 2012, around 20 percent came from nonwhites. Republicans fear Trump could also struggle with moderates in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Clinton and related groups have more than $18 million in ads booked in the state between now and the election, according to Ad Age, compared with just over $1 million for Trump.

COLORADO

Clinton’s advantage in Colorado is emblematic of the fears some Republicans have about the party’s future in an increasingly diverse America.

She leads by more than 11 points in the RealClearPolitics average, and FiveThirtyEight’s “polls only” forecast gives her an almost 75 percent chance of carrying the state.

Two figures go part of the way to explaining Clinton’s strength: Latinos accounted for 14 percent of the state’s voters in 2012’s elections, and 49 percent of Colorado voters were college graduates. Both those numbers are higher than the average, and Trump performs poorly with both groups.

WISCONSIN

Winning Wisconsin would seem to be a big stretch for Trump: A Republican has not carried the state since President Ronald Reagan did in his 1984 reelection landslide. But, relatively speaking, Trump is performing well there. He is within 2 points of Clinton in the most recent Washington Post poll. Two other recent polls have pegged her advantage at 3 points and 5 points. One factor that could be aiding Trump: 86 percent of voters in Wisconsin were white in 2012. The proportion with a college degree was also toward the lower end among battleground states, at 42 percent.

MICHIGAN

Michigan is, so far, proving that Trump’s Rust Belt strategy has its limits. Clinton is more than 7 points ahead there, according to the RealClearPolitics average, while FiveThirtyEight pegs her chances of a win at around 75 percent. There is some hope for Trump — Clinton leads by only 2 points in a Washington Post poll. Trump and his allies are spending a modest sum in TV advertising in the state. But Clinton has 23 field offices there, according to the PBS figures, while Trump is not known to have any.

NEVADA 

Despite that fact that Latinos cast 19 percent of the total ballots in Nevada in 2012, Trump is keeping the race tight. Clinton’s lead is only 2.3 points in the RealClearPolitics average. It’s worth noting that Nevada is the only state where Trump is at parity with Clinton in terms of field offices — they have six apiece, according to the PBS analysis.

IOWA

Iowa was the only battleground state where Trump held an advantage in the RealClearPolitics average as of Tuesday afternoon, albeit an edge of less than 1 percentage point. Ninety-three percent of the ballots cast there in 2012 were from whites. It’s also a state that has traditionally been difficult territory for Clinton. Her 2008 campaign never truly recovered from her third-place finish in that year’s Democratic caucuses, while earlier this year she held off a challenge from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) only by a whisker.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

It’s a strong state for Clinton, even though New Hampshire’s electorate is as white as Iowa’s. She is up 9 points in the RealClearPolitics average. The contrast with Iowa may be rooted in differing social attitudes, with even New Hampshire Republicans leaning more libertarian than their conservative counterparts in Iowa. Clinton has 17 field offices there to Trump’s one, according to PBS. She and her allies are also slated to spend almost $7 million on TV ads, including the Boston market, while Trump has no ad spending booked, according to Ad Age.

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