There are four new swing-state polls out today and none are good for Trump, but this Nevada survey from Suffolk is the worst because that’s been one of his best battlegrounds all year. He hasn’t trailed in a poll there since mid-August, when Suffolk’s last survey of the state found Clinton up just two points in the midst of her big post-convention bounce. If you’re Team Trump, you were counting on that to be her high-water mark in Nevada this year, especially given how the race had tightened nationally earlier this month. As it turns out, though, she’s now up six — her biggest lead in the state all year.
The poll was conducted between Tuesday and Thursday of this week, all post-debate. Democrats desperately needed Clinton to get a bounce from Monday night. Seems like she might have gotten it.
Fully 82 percent(!) say they watched the debate, and of those people, 57 percent thought Clinton won versus 23 percent who said Trump did. Of note: Not a single poll of Nevada besides this one has Trump doing worse than 40 percent this year. Since the last Suffolk poll of the state in August, the worst he’s done is 42 percent. If you want to believe this is an outlier, there’s your peg. If you want to believe that Trump really blew it at the debate and lost some voters who were in his pocket before, it’s a peg for you too. Most likely it’s just an artifact of the margin of error and Clinton’s lead is narrower than Suffolk sees it, but any lead for her in Nevada at this point would be newsy.
That’s not the only battleground poll showing her out to a surprisingly big lead today either. Mason-Dixon has it Clinton 46, Trump 42 in Florida in the four-way race. Nowhere else in America would four points be a “big” lead, but given Florida’s history and the fact that Trump had edged past her there in multiple surveys earlier this month, it feels like a bounce. This too was conducted entirely after the debate:
Clinton’s 46-42 percent lead over Trump in the Mason-Dixon Polling & Research survey only represents a 2-point shift in her favor since the last time the Jacksonville-based firm surveyed the race in August. The poll’s error margin is 3.5 points…
Clinton is pulling slightly more support from Democrats (among whom she leads Trump 83-10 percent) than Trump does from Republicans (among whom he is ahead of her by 77-13 percent). One potentially troubling sign for Clinton: Trump beats her among independent voters by 41-33 percent.
Both major candidates are disliked. But Trump is disliked more. Only 31 percent have a favorable opinion of him while 39 percent view Clinton favorably; 53 percent have an unfavorable opinion of Trump and 47 percent don’t like her.
As noted, she’s only gained two points on him since M-D’s last poll of Florida in August, but she’s not supposed to be gaining at this point. She’s supposed to be fading, and she was fading in most Florida polls a few weeks ago. Of 10 taken there this month, Trump led four, Clinton led five, and one was tied, but in only one poll did Clinton lead by more than two points. Mason-Dixon now has her up four. That’s not the trendline Republicans want to see.
Likewise for the two other states polled today, although neither one is much of a battleground. A new Detroit News poll of Michigan has Clinton leading there 42/35; that seven-point advantage is her biggest margin in the state this month. A WBUR poll of New Hampshire has her ahead in that state by the same margin, 42/35, although she led by nine there in a different poll 10 days ago. NH is an important state in November because if battleground states like Ohio and Florida start tilting red, Clinton can still win the election by holding the usual blue ones and winning Pennsylvania (probable), Virginia (probable), Colorado (toss-up), and, yes, New Hampshire. Not once this year has Trump cracked 40 percent in a NH poll, so right now Colorado is the lowest-hanging fruit on that tree for Trump. Although we’ll have to wait and see what the first post-debate polls of that state say.
And yes, both the Michigan and New Hampshire polls out today found that people there thought Clinton won the debate too. In NH, the split was 59/19, in MI it was 52/20. More worryingly for Trump, respondents in both polls gave him bad marks in terms of being qualified for the job. When asked if he’s fit to be president, New Hampshirites split 33/62; for Clinton they split 49/46. In Michigan, 57 percent said Clinton is qualified versus 62 percent who say Trump is unqualified. The debate didn’t sink him (especially with another one around the corner) but it seems pretty clear that it hurt a bit. On Monday, the day of the debate, FiveThirtyEight had Clinton a 55/45 favorite to win in November. Today, after several days of good polls, it’s 65/35.
David Byler of RCP has a short piece that’s worth your time on polling benchmarks for Trump at this stage of the race. A week ago, Trump was exactly where he wanted to be. A week later…
For most of September, Trump has been exceeding his benchmarks. Clinton led him in the RCP averages for all of this month, but historical data suggested that her lead was small enough that the GOP nominee could still overtake her before Election Day. Heading into the debate, Clinton led by about two percentage points (the exact number changes if third parties are/aren’t included), which meant that Trump could realistically still catch up…
If polling data continues to show such a bounce, it will likely keep Trump from exceeding his benchmarks and may even put him behind on them. If the debate ends up improving Clinton’s standing by about two points, then Trump will be at a four-point deficit. He would then just barely hit his late September/early October benchmark. If Clinton’s bounce is larger than two points, Trump will miss his benchmarks by a significant amount. He could still win despite missing the benchmarks, but he would have to make up ground more quickly than most of his predecessors have been able to do.
He’s got two more chances to get on track but he has to take advantage, especially in terms of reassuring people that he’s fit to be president. A smart place to start would be by not tweeting about sex tapes, don’t you think?
In lieu of an exit question, here’s a poll that came out a few days ago showing Trump ahead by just four points in … South Carolina, which is supposed to be safely red. Given Hillary’s trouble in getting black Democrats excited to vote, Trump probably doesn’t have anything to worry about there, but any red state looking purplish is newsworthy. Trump’s margin for error in the electoral college is basically zero. If a Romney state goes wobbly on him, it’s all over.