Back on the board: Two new polls of Wisconsin show newly tight presidential race

This is the most dramatic evidence yet that Hillary’s convention bounce really is gone. For one simple reason: The last survey of Wisconsin taken earlier this month by Marquette, a well respected pollster, was an absolute bloodbath for Trump, with Clinton leading by 13 in the four-way race and 15 head to head. The state looked off the board. Turns out it isn’t, although as you’ll see, even in a “good news” poll the bad news persists that Hillary’s floor seems to be higher than Trump’s ceiling.

Of the two new surveys, one from Marquette and the other from Monmouth, the former is the bigger news just because the results are so sharply different from three weeks ago.

“After a strong bump in Clinton’s favor following the national party conventions, the electorate in Wisconsin has returned to about where the vote stood in July, prior to the conventions,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll and Professor of Law and Public Policy…

Among likely voters, Clinton receives 41 percent, Trump 38, Johnson 10 and Stein 4 with 7 percent lacking a preference. In early August, Clinton received 47 percent of likely voters, with Trump at 34 percent, Johnson at 9 and Stein at 3, while 6 percent lacked a preference. In July, among likely voters, Clinton received 43 percent, Trump 37, Johnson 8 and Stein 2…

Trump is viewed favorably by 28 percent and unfavorably by 63 percent of registered voters. Eight percent say they either haven’t heard enough or don’t know how they feel about him. In early August, Trump’s rating was 27 percent favorable and 65 percent unfavorable.

Clinton is viewed favorably by 35 percent and unfavorably by 58 percent of registered voters. Seven percent say they haven’t heard enough or don’t know how they feel about her. In early August, 43 percent rated Clinton favorably and 53 percent unfavorably.

Hillary’s lost six points off her overall share of the vote and eight points off her favorable rating in just three weeks. Presumably that’s her post-convention balloon deflating, although maybe some of the Clinton Foundation coverage this month has begun to bite. Trump’s favorable rating is stable but he’s up four points from his share of the vote a few weeks ago while Johnson and Stein are flat. It seems like some Republicans who briefly tilted Hillary after the convention have tilted back to their own party, perhaps helped along by steady (if reluctant) support for Trump from fellow Wisconsinites Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, and Scott Walker. As for Monmouth:

Among Wisconsin voters likely to cast ballots in November’s presidential election, 43% currently support Clinton and 38% back Trump. Another 7% intend to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson, 3% back Jill Stein of the Green Party, and 8% are undecided. Slightly more Democrats back Clinton (89%) than Republicans who back Trump (83%). Independents are divided at 37% for Trump and 34% for Clinton, with 10% supporting Johnson and 6% supporting Stein.

Trump leads among white voters by a slim 2 points (42% to 40%), similar to the 3 point margin Mitt Romney had with this group in 2012 (51% to 48%). Trump is doing better than Romney among white men – 51% to 29% compared to Romney’s 56% to 42% win – but worse among white women – losing 33% to 50% for Clinton compared to Romney’s 46% to 53% loss to Barack Obama. Clinton leads by 55 points among black, Hispanic, and Asian voters (67% to 12%), similar to Obama’s 60 point win (79% to 19%) with this group four years ago.

Of special note: In both polls, Russ Feingold is running ahead of Hillary, scoring 48 percent among likely voters in Marquette and 54 percent(!) in Monmouth in his two-way race with Ron Johnson. In the latter poll, Feingold is five points better than Clinton among Democrats and 18 points better among independents (although some of Hillary’s trouble with indies comes from Gary Johnson being in the mix). She has the numbers in theory to win comfortably in Wisconsin, as Obama did, but she’s simply too widely disliked to put away an even more widely disliked candidate in Trump. It’s like a one-seed leading a 16-seed by three points with five minutes to play. You expect the one-seed to pull it out because there’s more talent on the team, but at this point they deserve to lose for performing so badly.

And what would a surprise win in Wisconsin mean for Trump? Only this: A chance to win the presidency without winning Pennsylvania.

There are a lot of “ifs” built into that map — if he can win Florida, if he can win Ohio, if he can win Nevada and North Carolina and hold onto Georgia and South Carolina — then he has a path even with PA in the familiar blue column. But don’t be sanguine about it: In both of these “good” new Wisconsin polls, he tops out at 38 percent in the four-way race. He’s never been above that number there and Hillary’s never been below 41 percent. It’s a similar story nationally, as noted yesterday. In the 30 or so national polls taken this month, Trump has been above 40 percent just once while Hillary has been below 41 just a few times. And the dynamics of the four-way race don’t favor him at the moment: Third-party voters lean narrowly towards Hillary when forced to choose, and Trump is attempting this comeback while shouldering an unfavorable rating that’s somehow even more toxic than Clinton’s. Until those dynamics change, the shift in the polls is really a matter of how wide or narrow Clinton’s victory will be. He’ll have a shot to break that dynamic in a few weeks at the debates.

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