One expects a campaign official to be optimistic, but does Paul Manafort really believe that Donald Trump is about to flip Connecticut and New Jersey for the first time in 28 years? Pick up Manafort’s conversation with Fox’s Sean Hannity at about the 3:55 mark to hear how Manafort sees the race unfolding in the Rust Belt, and then how he extends that to two deep-blue states:
Full bit of Manafort telling Hannity that Connecticut and New Jersey are in play for the general election: pic.twitter.com/Yssv4Q0qXM
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) July 18, 2016
Before we get to either of those two states, let’s test Manafort out on his Rust Belt claims. In Michigan and in Wisconsin, Trump not only trails significantly in RCP averages, he’s never had a lead in polling at all. That doesn’t mean that the possibility can’t exist that Trump will get competitive in those states at some point, but there’s no evidence so far that these states are in play now.
The same is true in both Connecticut and New Jersey, although polling has been somewhat less robust in both — probably due to the low odds of either state being competitive. RCP hasn’t put together an average for Connecticut, but the three polls taken there over the last eight months show Trump scoring no higher than 40% in a state where Mitt Romney got 41%. The most recent, a Quinnipiac poll from early June, puts Hillary Clinton ahead 45/38. That may be weak for Hillary, but that doesn’t equate to strength for Trump. The party split in the 2012 race was 41% Democratic to 26% Republican, which means that the upside here definitely goes to Democrats — especially since all three polls took place before Hillary cemented the nomination.
New Jersey has quite a bit more polling and seems to be closer than Connecticut, but there still isn’t much evidence that Trump will compete in this deep-blue state. The RCP average gives Hillary only a 2.7-point lead, but Trump’s average is 41.8. He’s had one tie, in a Boston Herald poll taken in late May, but scored only 44%, and also has never led in any poll. Romney also lost New Jersey 58/41, and the 2012 partisan split was even wider, 44/26 Democrats. In the two polls taken since Hillary wrapped up the nomination, she’s led by four and five points and Trump got no higher than 42%.
Now, if Manafort’s just making claims for entertainment and morale, that isn’t much problem. If the campaign is actually focusing its resources on these states rather than those where Republicans stand more of a chance — Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Colorado, for instance — then it’s a big problem. Talk is cheap, but with a campaign running on seriously limited resources thus far, a Hail Mary on the northeastern Atlantic seaboard might be very, very expensive.