For some reason I operate under the assumption that if one of these two states ends up in play in November, it’ll be New Hampshire, not Wisconsin. Probably that’s because of the primaries this year: New Hampshire was Trump’s first win (and Hillary first’s loss) whereas Wisconsin was arguably his biggest defeat, a walloping in early April by Ted Cruz. If you look at their recent presidential histories, though, there’s no reason to think NH is within reach while WI isn’t. Granted, the latter has gone blue in every election since 1984, but the former has been blue five out of the last six. Obama won both by similar six-point margins last time and by double digits in 2008. Dubya lost both very narrowly in 2004. And Wisconsin, of course, has been home to some enormous Republican statewide wins over the last few years thanks to Scott Walker. More importantly to Trump, the polling in New Hampshire this year has been fairly consistently dismal for him whereas the polling in Wisconsin, although dismal for a stretch, has lately perked up. And of course, given his strength in Ohio and Indiana, Wisconsin seems like a better fit for him than a New England state like New Hampshire does. We should be paying closer attention to WI than to NH, particularly since it’s worth more than double the electoral votes (10 versus four).

Let’s get the new poll from New Hampshire out of the way first. Result: Still dismal.

Among Granite State voters likely to participate in November’s presidential election, 47% support Clinton and 38% back Trump. Another 10% intend to vote for Libertarian Gary Johnson, 1% support Green Party candidate Jill Stein, and 3% are currently undecided.

Clinton has the support of 94% of self-identified Democrats while Trump gets the backing of 85% of Republicans. Clinton edges Trump among the state’s sizable bloc of independents by 42% to 35%…

Clinton also has the edge on handling the economy and jobs – 51% of voters trust her more to deal with this issue while 42% prefer Trump.

That’s the second Monmouth poll in two days to show Clinton cleaning up with Democrats while Trump lags with Republicans. Yesterday’s result in Florida showed the same thing.
Hmmm. Maybe Clinton’s poll slide earlier this month helped spook ambivalent members of her own party into swinging into her column again. After leading big in August, one New Hampshire poll taken in early September found her advantage dropping to five points and then another a few days later had her ahead by one(!), giving Team Trump hope that NH had finally come back on the board. Now, 12 days later, Clinton’s running away with it again. I find it confounding that Trump would underperform her in support from his own party at a moment when the news is filled with headlines about the race tightening and Trump climbing in key states like Florida and Ohio. Are some reluctantly pro-Trump Republicans getting cold feet at the thought that he really could win?

Relatedly, Kelly Ayotte is at 47 percent here in her (two-way) race with Maggie Hassan, good for a two-point lead. That’s nine points better than Trump. She was at 48 and 52 in the previous two polls of the state while Trump is mired in the high 30s in the four-way presidential race. There’s a lot of ticket-splitting happening in New Hampshire right now. Voters are willing to vote for a Republican — just not Trump, at least for now.

Anyway, on to Wisconsin. Marquette Law School was responsible for the bombshell poll in mid-August showing Clinton destroying Trump there by 13 points. You don’t dig your way out of a hole that deep — usually. But the last Marquette poll published a few weeks later showed Trump suddenly closing to within three points, suggesting that most of that earlier landslide lead for Clinton was just a convention bounce. Now they’re back with an update: Nearly a month later, it’s still Clinton by three. 41/38, unchanged from late August. Trump will happily accept being down a field goal in Wisconsin with three debates still to come, but the internals here aren’t encouraging for him.

Trump is viewed favorably by 31 percent and unfavorably by 61 percent of registered voters. Seven percent say they either haven’t heard enough or don’t know how they feel about him. In late August, Trump’s rating was 28 percent favorable and 63 percent unfavorable.

Clinton is viewed favorably by 43 percent and unfavorably by 50 percent of registered voters. Six percent say they haven’t heard enough or don’t know how they feel about her. In late August, 35 percent rated Clinton favorably and 58 percent unfavorably…

Asked if a candidate has the qualifications to be president, 60 percent say Clinton does, while 38 percent say she does not. Thirty-five percent say Trump has the qualifications to be president, while 62 percent say he does not…

In late August, 41 percent were comfortable with Clinton and 57 percent were uncomfortable, with 45 percent very uncomfortable. For Trump, 32 percent were comfortable and 67 percent uncomfortable, with 52 percent very uncomfortable.

Clinton’s favorable rating has rebounded by eight points since last month and isn’t far at the moment from being evenly split. Trump’s rating is flatter and still highly unfavorable. Wisconsinites say she’s qualified to be president and he isn’t by wide margins, and while voters are uncomfortable with the thought of both being president, Trump’s about 10 points worse than she is on that score. Elsewhere, 48 percent of Democrats said they’d prefer Bernie Sanders as nominee versus 43 percent who say they prefer Hillary — but among Republicans, fully 68 percent(!) say they’d prefer someone else at the top of the ticket. Wisconsin hates both candidates enough to make the race close, but when push comes to shove, they seem to hate Trump more. In fact, although the race has tightened there a lot since Trump’s post-convention swoon, he’s never led a poll in Wisconsin against Clinton. He’s never even topped 38 percent. He needs a string of reassuring debates and/or a new Clinton scandal to convince the nose-holders that he’s the lesser of two evils, not her.

To put all of this in perspective, here’s a map I came up with assuming Clinton holds on in New Hampshire but Trump comes storming back to win Wisconsin:

wi

A lot of other assumptions are built into that too, of course — Clinton holds on in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Colorado, but Trump runs the table everywhere else and, as I say, pulls the upset in WI. That would leave the race … 262/261 for Clinton, with North Carolina becoming winner-take-all. That should illustrate for you how important Wisconsin is to both sides this year. If Clinton keeps it blue, it’s game over on this map. She’d be at 272 and North Carolina would be academic.

Exit question: Is there any way native son Paul Ryan and primary winner Ted Cruz will be able to resist the tremendous pressure they’ll be under next month to campaign for Trump in Wisconsin, given their popularity there?