New polls: Trump leads by eight in Iowa and by seven in, er, Texas

As crazy as that headline is, and as unlikely as it is that Texas will end up tighter than Iowa on Election Day, there’s an obvious demographic explanation for why it could happen. Iowa is very, very white and has an atypically large population of voters who aren’t college educated. That’s Trump’s base to a T (no pun intended). Texas, of course, has a huge and growing Latino minority that’ll probably turn the state purple eventually — although not just yet, or so most experts assume. But if Trump’s white base shows up for him in Iowa and Hillary’s Latino base shows up for her in Texas, then maybe the margins of victory for Trump in the two states won’t be as wildly different as you’d assume.

Let’s start with Iowa. This Monmouth result is a big deal. Iowa has been close all summer, even when Hillary led big in other swing states, because, as noted, the demographics there favor Trump. If the race is now close in other battlegrounds, you’d expect to see him out in front there. Even so, eight points is quite a lead for a guy whose rare leads in polls until now have been mostly one or two points. An Emerson poll of Iowa recently found him leading by five, but Emerson only calls landlines to conduct its polls, which means some cell-phone-using left-leaning voters may get overlooked. Monmouth’s methodology is well respected, though — and they now have Trump up big.

Strange but apparently true: Trump’s lead is growing there even though he’s lost a bit of support among Iowa Republicans since July.

Among Iowa voters likely to participate in November’s presidential election, 45% currently support Trump and 37% back Clinton. Another 8% intend to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson, 2% say they will support Green Party candidate Jill Stein, 2% say they will vote for another candidate, and 6% are undecided. Trump’s current standing is similar to his 44% share two months ago, but Clinton has lost support since July when she had a 42% vote share.

Among self-identified Republicans, 81% support Trump, which is down from 87% in July. Clinton has improved her standing among Democrats from 86% two months ago to 91% in the current poll. Trump has been able to increase his overall lead, though, by improving his share of the independent vote. He now leads Clinton 44% to 29% among independents, compared to a much narrower 39% to 35% edge he had in July

Trump (42%) and Clinton (43%) are basically tied among voters with a college degree while Trump leads 47% to 34% among those without a college education. In July, Clinton had a 46% to 34% edge with college graduates while Trump had a 50% to 40% lead among those without a college degree.

Republican support for Trump is down but independent support for Trump is up, and Hillary’s crucial lead among white college grads is gone. Maybe Trump’s “softening” on immigration helps explain all of that: Iowa is Steve King country, and King’s conservative constituents might not have been keen on watching Trump flirt with legalizing illegals for a week or two last month. Indies might like it, though, as might white college grads; in fact, the whole point of Trump winking at moderation on immigration and outreach to minorities is to show better-educated Republicans that he’s not the monster the media keeps portraying him as. It might be working in Iowa. If that trend continues in other states, with whites on both sides of the college-educated divide lining up for Trump, Clinton’s in trouble.

As for Texas, it’s tempting to laugh this off as a fluke but this makes not one, not two, but three polls in a row showing Trump leading by just six or seven points in the four-way race. The head-to-head result in Texas in that recent 50-state WaPo poll was, er, Clinton by one. There’s every reason to believe the race there is close — for the moment.

Among likely voters, Trump leads Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by seven points, at 39% and 32%, respectively. Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson comes in third at 9% and Green Party candidate Jill Stein registers in fourth with 3%. Among registered voters, Trump holds a fragile 1% lead over Clinton in a four-way race, while Clinton has a 4% lead in a head-to-head matchup. With only six weeks left before early voting begins, 17% of respondents say they remain undecided…

“Registered voters are more diverse than the pool of voters who historically show up in Texas elections, but the combination of the slow march of demographic change and Trump’s rhetoric appears to have made Texas’ registered voter pool more Democratic than we have seen in previous presidential races,” he said.

Some would argue that surveys of registered voters matter far less than likely voters, and that the state’s growing Hispanic voting population is not leading to higher minority participation and will not be a significant factor in this presidential election.

Could Hillary try to make a play for Texas? It’s a long longshot, but she has more money and better organization than Trump does so she’s better positioned to bet on a longshot. On the other hand, the best she managed to do in any of the three recent polls showing the race close-ish was just 38 percent. The large pool of undecideds in each is proof that even a reliably red state like Texas is lukewarm towards Trump, but realistically those undecideds will tilt towards him on Election Day. Likewise, there’s no evidence in these polls that Gary Johnson is pulling especially heavily from Clinton rather than Trump; even if his voters desert him down the stretch and opt for one of the two major-party candidates, the effect is likely to be a wash. The most hopeful thing Democrats can tell themselves about this, I think, is that there may be a pool of Democrats and left-leaning independents in Texas who aren’t planning to vote right now because they assume — maybe wrongly — that Trump winning there is a foregone conclusion. If and when the news gets around that the race is surprisingly tight, some of them may turn into likely voters after all. In other words, there may be “undercover Hillary voters” in Texas just like there are supposedly undercover Trump voters nationally who are waiting for a reason to get excited and turn out. (Note that Trump leads by just one point among registered voters.) The problem for liberals is that there are probably soft Trump supporters in Texas too who also aren’t planning to vote right now because they don’t like his brand of Republicanism. They’ll be more likely to show up too as the public grows aware that Texas is close, which means any surge by undercover Hillary voters may end up nullified.

Long story short, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where Clinton decides to bet money or organization on Texas believing that Texas will actually matter. She might do it if she recovers and surges back to a big lead nationally, just to force Trump to play defense there, or she might do it if she falls behind in the key swing states and needs a Hail Mary to try to pull out a national win, but in any traditional scenario she’s going to spend her dollars in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire and concede Texas.

Oh, speaking of key swing states: Yet another poll is out this afternoon showing Trump ahead in Ohio, 40/37. That makes four of the last five in that state that have him ahead. Can’t be long before we get a Pennsylvania poll showing a tight race, which will be five-alarm panic time for Team Hillary.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022