This new poll from Saint Leo’s is big news if it’s picking up a trend in Florida, which has been one of the tighter swing-state races this summer. Two of the last five polls there have showed the race tied or Clinton ahead by a point. Ohio has also been close-ish, with Clinton leading by four to six points — a comfortable margin but not one where you’d take the state off the board. Trump needs both of those states plus Pennsylvania to have a real chance at the White House; the fact that two of them are still competitive means he still has hope, subject of course to him turning his numbers in PA around.
But what if Florida’s increasingly not competitive? If this state turns into Colorado and Virginia, with consistent double digit leads for Clinton, the election’s over. Saint Leo’s has it … Hillary 52, Trump 38.
Saint Leo University Polling Institute Director Frank Orlando said the results show that Clinton’s lead appears “very secure” in Florida. “She was winning by 14 points in Florida in our June poll, and she’s still winning by that margin after the conventions. The opportunities for Donald Trump to make up that distance are shrinking,” observed Orlando, who also teaches political science at Saint Leo University. “Absent an unprecedented movement toward Trump as a result of the debates, or more likely, an external shock to the system, she can safely put Florida in her column,” Orlando said.
Orlando delved further into the characteristics of poll respondents, and took note of the way various groups of Florida likely voters intend to vote or are leaning toward voting. He found Trump losing to Clinton in most demographics in the Sunshine State, and even among men, who are believed by many observers to be a major part of the Trump’s base. The two candidates both poll in the 40s among men, but Clinton is ahead by about a point at 45.3 percent versus 44.5.
There are good reasons to think this is an outlier. For starters, no other poll of Florida this year has had Clinton up double digits in the four-way race. Saint Leo’s, however, had Hillary by 14 in June, before the conventions, at a moment when other pollsters were seeing a close race ranging from Hillary leading by three or four points to Trump leading by one. It may be that Saint Leo has a very strong Democratic-leaning “house effect.” The gender gap here is also unusual, with Hillary leading by 28 points(!) among women and actually ahead of Trump by a point among men, one of his most solid demographics. Two weeks ago a Quinnpiac poll of Florida had Hillary up 13 points among women, which is more in line with her typical margins, and Trump up eight points among men. Also, it’s an online poll, and online polls have a rap for being less trustworthy. Although, to hear some Trump fans talk, they’re actually more trustworthy this year because they replicate the anonymity of the voting booth. Some Trump fans might be embarrassed to tell a person over the phone that they’re backing him, the theory goes, and therefore online results are more accurate. Well, here’s your online result. Hillary by 14.
There are reasons to think the survey’s not an outlier too, though. Twitter pal Matt Blumenfeld points out that Saint Leo’s did a good job of calling the Florida primary. They had Trump ahead of Rubio 41.4/22.8 in their final primary poll in March, a margin of 18.6 points. The result on primary night: Trump 45.7, Rubio 27.0, a margin of … 18.7 points. Speaking of Rubio, Saint Leo’s new poll today has him ahead in his Senate race against Patrick Murphy, 46.2/38.1, a lead of 8.1 points. The RCP poll average has the race a bit closer but not wildly out of line with Saint Leo’s numbers: Rubio 47.2, Murphy 41.4, a margin of 5.8. If this poll is online garbage with a heavy Democratic lean, why aren’t Murphy’s numbers much better here than they are in other polls, as Clinton’s are? Saint Leo’s actually has him doing a bit worse than other outfits do.
And one other thing. Although Florida has seen a tighter race between Clinton and Trump over the past month than Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Virginia have, the very last poll taken of the state before this one wasn’t so tight. Monmouth had Hillary ahead 48/39 in the four-way race in Florida last week, conspicuously close to the numbers Saint Leo’s is seeing today. There really might be a trend towards Clinton in the state. If that’s the new reality, I don’t know where Team Trump goes from here. Double-digit deficits in Pennsylvania and Florida are the apocalypse. No one’s going to draw any firm conclusions until there are a few more new surveys of the state from major pollsters, but if they show ~10-point leads too, Reince is going to start sniffing glue.
Incidentally, there’s another new poll out today from Monmouth of Missouri, a state that used to be a battleground but went comfortably for Romney in 2012 by nine points. Right now it’s Trump 44, Clinton 43. If a reddish state like Missouri (or Georgia) is a jump ball, the idea that a purple state like Florida might be solid blue becomes more plausible.