Poll: Trump leads in key swing state. Really.

The way the polls have gone lately, that headline reads like a punchline, with Utah or South Carolina as the “swing state.” No foolin’, though: He really does lead in a bona fide swing state according to the new survey from Suffolk. In Iowa it’s Trump 41, Clinton 40. The same poll has the four-way race at Trump 37, Clinton 36, which is in line with the other post-convention poll of Iowa showing the race dead even at 35(!). This new one isn’t an outlier.

Even during a bad stretch, he has a real chance to pick off a state that broke for Obama twice. How come?

Despite Iowa likely voters splitting almost evenly between Trump and Clinton, the perception among those Hawkeye State likely voters is that Clinton will prevail in November. Nearly 53 percent of Iowans said that when all the votes are counted this November, Clinton will win. Just 31 percent said they thought Trump will win. Some 16 percent weren’t sure…

Current party registration in Iowa shows a slight one point advantage for registered Republicans over registered Democrats (33 percent to 32 percent) with 35 percent having independent/no party affiliation…

Clinton continues to struggle with trustworthiness among likely voters. When respondents were asked if they thought Clinton is honest and trustworthy 29 percent said yes while 62 percent said no, and 9 percent weren’t sure. Trump was viewed as honest and trustworthy by 34 percent of respondents while 55 percent said he was not, with over 10 percent not sure.

The fact that a majority of Iowans expect Clinton to win isn’t a great sign. This isn’t a great sign either:

When Steve King is already gaming out how well a Republican Congress might work with Hillary, you know the GOP’s feeling gloomy. But never mind that. Why is Iowa so evenly split for Trump when other swing states like Pennsylvania have gone sideways for him? One contributing factor is racial demographics: Iowa is 94 percent white and whites consistently break for Trump, albeit not as heavily at the moment as they broke for Romney in 2012. Iowa is also a bit below average in terms of its number of college degrees as a percentage of the population. Trump’s strongest demographic is whites who didn’t graduate from college. Then again, Wisconsin is comparable to Iowa in terms of college degrees and that state is also heavily white (yet not quite as much as Iowa) and he’s getting his ass handed to him there. Explaining that difference is above my pay grade.

There’s actually another swing state where Trump is surprisingly competitive: Nevada. There’s only been one post-convention poll there, but Clinton led Trump by just two points in a four-way race. You would think Nevada would be easy pickings for her. It went comfortably for Obama twice and has a comparatively small white population of 75 percent. There are sizable Latino and Mormon minorities there, both of which are hostile to Trump. Why is she having trouble? I’ll leave it to the data nerds to explain fully but it’s worth noting that Nevada is way down the list of college degrees by percentage of the population. Among the 50 states plus D.C., it ranks 46th. Because so many voters are working class, Trump may have a very strong grip on the white vote there. (He led 50/35 in that group in the one post-convention poll.)

If you want to quibble with something in the headline, don’t quibble with the fact that Trump is leading in Iowa, quibble with the idea that it’s a “key swing state” this year. Remember this map from last night? You can hand Iowa and Nevada to Trump on a silver platter and it changes nothing about the basic dynamic of the race. Clinton’s piled up so many electoral votes in “solid Democratic” or “likely Democratic” states already that traditional battlegrounds like Iowa and Nevada don’t matter right now, and some traditionally red states may be more in play than anyone realizes. Here’s another new poll out from a “swing state” this morning — and this time, that term is used ironically:

PPP’s newest South Carolina poll* finds that the state is trending toward being competitive in the Presidential race this year, just like in neighboring Georgia. Donald Trump has only a 2 point lead with 41% to 39% for Hillary Clinton, 5% for Gary Johnson, and 2% for Jill Stein…

Whether Democrats end up winning South Carolina in the Presidential race this fall or not, the generational differences in the state portend well for the party in the decades ahead. Trump is only ahead because of a massive advantage among seniors in the state at 58/30. When you look at everyone in the electorate below the age of 65, Clinton leads Trump 41/36. That suggests the potential for the Palmetto State to become much more of a battleground in the years ahead, just as in migration and the increasing diversity of the electorate has done in Southern states like Virginia and North Carolina.

You can disregard that result if you like because the poll was sponsored by the South Carolina Democratic Party, but as I said a few days ago, if Georgia’s close then it stands to reason that South Carolina will also be tight. The demographics in the two states are similar, with a solidly conservative white majority and a large, lockstep-Democratic black minority. If Hillary can turn out black voters en masse and if support for Trump among the white majority is tepid because some Republicans can’t bring themselves to back Trump, those states are in play. Needless to say, either one turning blue would essentially be instant death for Trump’s chances.

If you’re not polled out yet, there’s always the new Rasmussen survey showing him down nationally by just three points to Clinton. That’s the best national poll he’s had in awhile — but Ras had him down four points last week when multiple other pollsters were showing Clinton with a much larger lead. Rasmussen has tended to have a pro-Trump “house effect” this year. Let’s see if the next round of polls corroborates a tightening race.