Swing State Pres

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Clinton Laboring on Labor Day as the Race Tightens...But Is Texas in Play?

Labor Day is the traditional kick-off to the presidential campaign season.  This seems like a first-rate anachronism to the many millions of us who have been breathlessly following the races since May, 2015, but we are indeed here…61 days to go.

The last week has not been kind to Hillary Clinton.  Sure, Donald Trump has been flailing around on immigration policy points, apparently discarding his signature promise to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants immediately, and completing his transformation from blunt straight-shooter to chameleon.  And he also has rather awkwardly extended an olive branch to the African-American community, which tends to support Clinton by incredible margins, 89/4 in a recent PPP poll.

But Clinton has experienced more recent pain on her two most vulnerable issues, the unending email saga and the Clinton Foundation.  Clinton opponents have not found a smoking gun in either issue, but the penumbras of both continue to leave a bad taste.  The FBI released their Clinton interview notes on the email debacle, which were not terribly flattering to the nominee, and new concerns about the ties between the State Department and the Clinton Foundation made the news.

Hence the race has tightened in the last week, both at the national level and in swing states, summarized below.  There have been six new national polls in the last week, and her average lead is now down to four points.  The chart below summarizes weekly national polling data giving the contours of the race over the last two months.

Week Ending:
16-Jul
23-Jul
30-Jul
6-Aug
13-Aug
20-Aug
27-Aug
3-Sep
Clinton
45.4
43.7
45.9
47.5
47.8
45.2
46.5
45.8
Trump
41.8
40.7
43.0
40.5
39.8
39.0
40.2
41.8
Other/NA
12.8
15.7
11.1
12.0
12.5
15.8
13.3
12.3
Margin
3.6
3.0
2.9
7.0
8.0
6.2
6.3
4.0

You can see that in the run-up to the conventions in mid-to-late July, Clinton maintained a 3-4 point lead over Trump.  After the Democratic convention and the arc of Trump’s continued attack on the Khan’s, the Clinton lead widened to 7-8 points.  Since then, as both candidates have struggled, the lead has whittled down to four points.  In fact, if you compare the last column (the week ending September 3) with the first column (the week of July 16) it is amazing how similar they are, from the 4-point gap to that stubborn 12% that favors neither candidate.

Of course, as I have said many times, national polls do not elect presidents, it is all in the Electoral College and thus the swing states, and there too the margin has narrowed.  While Clinton still holds a commanding position, her overall delegate snapshot lead, by our BTRTN calculations, has slipped slightly from 348-190 to 339-199.

PRESIDENT SNAPSHOT: ELECTORAL COLLEGE
Electoral College
August 28
September 3
CLINTON - TOTAL
348
339
Clinton - Solid
273
225
Clinton - Lean
47
45
Clinton - Tossup
28
69
Trump - Tossup
34
73
Trump - Lean
20
6
Trump - Solid
136
120
TRUMP - TOTAL
190
199

Neither candidate has quite as many solid Electoral College votes as they did two weeks ago, and there are many more “toss-ups," now eight states with a voting margin of two points or less either way.  Perhaps the most significant shift is that Texas now appears to be in play – polling has been light there but the latest poll actually shows Clinton up by a single point – Texas!  Texas has a whopping 38 electoral votes, has not gone for a Democrat since Jimmy Carter in 1976; the GOP has won the state by an average of 18 points in the last four presidential elections; and Mitt Romney won it by 16 points in 2012.  But Texas demographics, with a growing Hispanic population, have been moving to the Dems – and if Texas is truly in play this year, that is a startling acceleration of the Dem dream of GOP Lone Star vulnerability.  Having said that, we don’t quite believe the Clinton +1 poll – not without further validation -- so for now we have left it in Trump’s column, but as a Toss-up R. 

There is more good news for Clinton:  she has flipped North Carolina from a Toss-up R to a Toss-up D.  Nevada has moved from a Toss-up D to a Lean D.

But there is plenty of concerning news for Clinton, too.  She has lost ground in Michigan, Virginia and Wisconsin (all moving from Solid to Lean).  Colorado and Florida are now Tossup D’s as well (from Solid and Lean, respectively).  Worst of all, Ohio and Iowa have both flipped from Clinton to Trump, Ohio as a Toss-Up R and Iowa as a Lean R. 

Swing States (EC)
Latest Polls                   as of Sep 5
BTRTN
Nevada (6)
Clinton +5
Lean D
Michigan (16)
Clinton +4
Lean D
Virginia (13)
Clinton +4
Lean D
Wisconsin (10)
Clinton +3
Lean D
Colorado (9)
Clinton +2
Toss-up D
Florida (29)
Clinton +2
Toss-up D
N. Carolina (15)
Clinton +1
Toss-up D
Georgia (16)
Clinton +0
Toss-up D
Texas (38)
Clinton +1
Toss-up R
Arizona (11)
Trump +1
Toss-up R
Ohio (18)
Trump +2
Toss-up R
Mississippi (6)
Trump +2
Toss-up R
Iowa (6)
Trump +5
Lean R

Trump has also finally pushed four states that are long-term Reds, South Carolina, Alaska, Missouri and Kansas, into Solid R territory, from Lean and Toss-up status.  But everything is not rosy for him…in addition to his Texas trauma – where he will now have to invest precious resources to defend – and his North Carolina troubles, Arizona and Mississippi have slipped to Toss-Up R’s and he continues to struggle in Georgia.

So, while the race is in flux, Clinton continues to hold a solid lead and has Trump on the ropes is states he should be leading in easily.  Trump still has his work cut out for him, especially as he lags in fundraising and building a viable ground game.  But he does have an opening, the landslide chatter has subsided and if Labor Day is no longer the starting bell, it certainly signals the backstretch of this unforgettable campaign.

‘*************************************************

Here is the 50-state (plus DC0 view…BTRTN rating changes in BOLD in the last column.

ELECTORAL COLLEGE SNAPSHOT
Democrat Minus Republican
2016 Electoral Votes
Avg Mrgn Last 4
Latest 2016 Polls as              of 9/4/16
BTRTN Current Rating
DC
3
82
none
Solid
Hawaii
4
29
Clinton +30
Solid
Maryland
10
20
Clinton +30
Solid
Vermont
3
26
Clinton +28
Solid
California
55
17
Clinton +24
Solid
Massachusetts
11
25
Clinton +23
Solid
New York
29
24
Clinton +20
Solid
Oregon
7
8
Clinton +19
Solid
Washington
12
11
Clinton +16
Solid
Illinois
20
16
Clinton +15
Solid
New Jersey
14
14
Clinton +15
Solid
Delaware
3
16
Clinton +14
Solid
New Mexico
5
6
Clinton +14
Solid
Connecticut
7
17
Clinton +12
Solid
Rhode Island
4
26
Clinton +10
Solid
Minnesota
10
6
Clinton +9
Solid
New Hampshire
4
4
Clinton +9
Solid
Maine
4
12
Clinton +8
Solid
Pennsylvania
20
6
Clinton +6
Solid
Nevada
6
3
Clinton +5
LEAN
Michigan
16
9
Clinton +4
LEAN
Virginia
13
-2
Clinton +4
LEAN
Wisconsin
10
5
Clinton +3
LEAN
Colorado
9
0.2
Clinton +2
TOSSUP
Florida
29
-0.3
Clinton +2
TOSSUP
N. Carolina
15
-7
Clinton +1
TOSSUP
Georgia
16
-10
Clinton +0
Tossup
Texas
38
-18
Clinton +1
TOSSUP
Arizona
11
-9
Trump +1
TOSSUP
Ohio
18
0.2
Trump +2
TOSSUP
Mississippi
6
-15
Trump +2
TOSSUP
Iowa
6
4
Trump +5
LEAN
S. Carolina
9
-13
Trump +7
SOLID
Alaska
3
-23
Trump +8
SOLID
Missouri
10
-5
Trump +10
SOLID
Utah
6
-40
Trump +11
Solid
Nebraska
5
-25
Trump +11
Solid
Kansas
6
-21
Trump +12
SOLID
Arkansas
6
-15
Trump +13
Solid
Montana
3
-15
Trump +13
Solid
S. Dakota
3
-18
Trump +14
Solid
Indiana
11
-11
Trump +15
Solid
Louisiana
8
-15
Trump +15
Solid
Tennessee
11
-13
Trump +18
Solid
Idaho
4
-34
Trump +19
Solid
W. Virginia
5
-15
Trump +21
Solid
Alabama
9
-21
Trump +21
Solid
Kentucky
8
-18
Trump +23
Solid
Oklahoma
7
-29
Trump +24
Solid
N. Dakota
3
-21
Trump +28
Solid
Wyoming
3
-39
Trump +38
Solid


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