Yikes: New North Carolina poll has Clinton up ... six points

Probably an outlier but worth noting in case it’s picking up a late break towards Clinton in the state. Because if it is, this election’s over. There’s virtually no way Trump wins the presidency if he hands over 15 electoral votes from Romney’s column to Hillary. In fact, if Hillary wins North Carolina and holds the usual blue states, she could win the election even if Trump hits the trifecta of Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania. All she’d need is Colorado, Virginia, and New Hampshire — all of which she’s likely to win — plus a narrow victory in Nevada. North Carolina is that important to Trump.

Before you dismiss this as an outlier, note that Elon had Trump by one in North Carolina just a few weeks ago. It picked up his early September surge. Now it’s seeing a major shift towards Clinton.

Clinton’s increase in support comes after she trailed Trump by close to 2 points during the first Elon Poll of the fall, released Sept. 20. Clinton is now the preference of 44.5 percent of voters while 39 percent plan to vote for Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson has seen an increase in support, with 9 percent planning to vote for him in November compared to 6 percent of those polled earlier last month.

Clinton has retained her support among black voters, with 98 percent planning to vote for her, while benefitting by a widening gender gap in the race. Among those planning to head to the polls in North Carolina next month, 61 percent of female voters plan to voter for Clinton while 56 percent of male voters plan to pick Trump. Two weeks ago, she held a 53-47 advantage over Trump among likely female voters.

Looking at how the two performed in the Sept. 26 debate, 64 percent of those likely voters who watched the debate picked Clinton as the winner.

The best reason to think this is an outlier is Trump’s number. He hasn’t been below 40 percent in an NC poll in nearly a month and hit 45 percent in not one but two polls two weeks ago. He had a bad debate, but 39 percent is a gut punch. The best reason not to think this is an outlier is that Quinnipiac found Clinton up three points in the state just a few days ago (after this Elon poll was conducted, in fact). Three points isn’t much, but it happens to be her biggest lead in NC since early September. And if you account for the “house effects” in various polls tracked by FiveThirtyEight, a three-point Democratic lead in Quinnipiac is tantamount to a five-point lead in other polls — nearly matching what Elon found in this new one. It really may be that Hillary has opened a bit of a cushion in North Carolina. And if it is, that’s likely the most alarming poll for Republicans since the debates.

When I tweeted the results earlier, a Twitter pal noted that the sample here seems far-fetched. The 2012 exit poll of NC recorded a 39/33 split for Democrats; today’s Elon poll found a 44D/33R split in party registrations. That’s obviously too blue, right? Well, Elon also asked everyone polled how they currently identify politically, irrespective of their registration. That split was a smaller Democratic tilt at 36D/29R, although still slightly ahead of 2012’s Dem advantage. By comparison, the recent Selzer poll of North Carolina had a narrow partisan gap of 33D/30R producing a lead for Hillary overall of just one point. It seems as though Elon’s anticipating a bluer electorate than Selzer is. But before you write the poll off, do note: A few weeks ago when Elon had Trump ahead in NC by a point, it used a similar sample of 41D/32R by party registration and 36D/26R by party identification. If anything, their sample has gotten slightly redder over the last few weeks — and yet Hillary’s still gained seven points on Trump in that time. Not a good trendline.

According to FiveThirtyEight, Clinton’s presently a 57 percent favorite to win the state. Nationally she’s a 73 percent favorite to win the election; back on September 26th, the day of the debate, her odds had sunk to nearly even at 55/45. Big stakes for Trump on Sunday, needless to say.