Dead heat: Clinton's lead down to two points nationally and in Pennsylvania

Jazz already got to the new Morning Consult poll, but the conclusion there is the same as the conclusion here. Both nationally and in Trump’s most elusive battleground state, it’s anyone’s ballgame with the debates set to begin tomorrow.


There’s a common thread in the new national survey ABC/WaPo survey and the new Pennsylvania poll by Muhlenberg, too. In both cases, you see Republican holdouts finally swinging away from Gary Johnson and towards Trump. Both polls were conducted before Ted Cruz’s very belated endorsement, but I think Cruz’s timing is in sync with other Trump skeptics. As Election Day finally appears on the horizon, most GOPers are beginning to line up. Two weeks ago ABC/WaPo had the race 46/41 for Clinton, with Johnson pulling nine percent. Today, Hillary’s still stuck at 46 but Trump is up to 44 percent with Johnson dropping to five. The difference is Republican voters shifting away from the third-party candidate: “Two weeks ago, 22 percent of Republicans who didn’t back Trump in the primaries were going to vote for Johnson. Now it’s only 8 percent.”

Same deal in Pennsylvania, where Muhlenberg finds Hillary’s 40/32 lead of a week ago shrinking to 40/38 now. Where’d that extra six points for Trump come from? You know where:

“Partisans coming home to their nominee is an expected part of any campaign as you get into the closing days,” said Chris Nicholas, a GOP consultant based in Harrisburg. “What’s notable here is the very large shift and we’re not close to the final days.”

A demographic analysis showed a double-digit jump in Trump’s support among Republicans after Trump underperformed with that group previously. This week, 85 percent of likely GOP voters said they’d choose him over Clinton, compared with 71 percent in the prior survey.

While Johnson had appeared to peel away some Republicans from Trump, that effect diminished this week, Borick said. Johnson fell by 6 points in the four-way matchup, while Trump gained by the same figure.


Not only that, but more Trump voters in PA say they’re voting for him than against Hillary, which is unusual. All summer, “against Hillary” has typically scored higher among Trump backers than “for Trump” has. Something has changed, at least temporarily, to make the people supporting him feel more confident about him. The fact that he’s still polling in the high 30s in a state he badly needs to win isn’t great news, but given that Clinton has been stuck at 40 for two weeks, that says less about Trump’s weakness vis-a-vis Hillary than it does about the reality that there are lots of undecideds in Pennsylvania. More than 20 percent of the electorate is still in play with three debates to come.

Back to ABC/WaPo, though, where the splits among white voters by age and educational level are mind-boggling:


Trump leads among white men without a college education by 59 farking points. That’s exactly the sort of world-beating margin he needs among his base to pull this off. And his margin might not be done growing. Check out this trendline:


Romney won that group by 31 points in 2012. Trump’s path to victory has always required him to outperform Mitt among working-class white men and now he’s doing it, by historic margins. Which raises the question: How is he still behind? If he’s crushing it among white men without a college degree and winning white women without a college degree and college-educated white men by double digits, how can he be losing? The answer is Hillary’s advantage among college-educated women, which has grown over the last two weeks from a 10-point lead to a 25-point lead(!) now. That’s why she’s running this ad, to try to build on it. Her formula all summer was to pile up nonwhite votes as high as, or higher than, Trump’s wall of white working-class male votes and then have white college grads push her over the top. White female college grads are complying, but if traditional Republican voters continue to come home to Trump, her formula won’t work.


In fact, it might not work anyway. WaPo notes that, despite her huge advantage among nonwhites, Clinton’s getting a smaller share of Obama’s 2012 voters than Trump is getting among Romney’s voters. She needs the Obama coalition to come through, and they’re barely coming through right now. Not only that, but after months of hype about “undercover Trump voters” possibly not registering to vote, there are more Hillary supporters in the ABC/WaPo poll who say they’re not registered than there are Trump supporters. That’s not all that surprising given that minorities tend to register at lower rates than whites, but Hillary’s vaunted ground game was supposed to remedy that problem somewhat. If her ground game is dominating his, how do you explain this?


It may be that some Trumpers are misreporting whether they’ve been contacted or not. A Twitter pal notes that no less than 45 percent of Trump fans claimed awhile back that they’d seen a Trump ad on TV recently — even though, at the time, Trump hadn’t run any general-election ads yet. On the other hand, who needs a ground game when you’ve got a big enthusiasm advantage?


Trump’s been betting all along that the greater enthusiasm among his fans will motivate them to turn out even without the usual GOTV outreach from a traditional campaign and that that’ll win him the election. He’s losing that bet right now if today’s topline numbers are right, but just barely. A week from now, he might be winning it.


The only truly discouraging news for Trump in either poll, I think, is the fact that ABC/WaPo continues to find terrible (although somewhat improved) numbers for him on questions of basic qualifications. Fifty-three percent of registered voters say he’s not qualified to be president, 55 percent say he doesn’t know world affairs well enough to serve effectively, and 58 percent say he lacks the temperament to serve effectively. Outside of his core base of white working-class men, just 43 percent say he’s qualified for the office. If you think Clinton’s going to win, that’s probably why — when push comes to shove, swing voters won’t trust the job to someone whom they fear isn’t able to do it. But then … that’s what the debates are for, right? Tomorrow is Trump’s chance to show the country that he knows his stuff and there’s really nothing Clinton can do to stop him. If he answers seriously and cogently and puts a dent in those “unqualified” numbers in the next round of polls, he’s the new favorite in November. Simple as that.

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