I’m overselling it in my headline. Obama won North Carolina in 2008 by less than half a point; Romney flipped it back to red four years later with a two-point victory. A “big lead” in North Carolina nowadays is three points — which is exactly where Suffolk sees the race in its new poll. Trump 44, Clinton 41, Johnson 4.
A month ago, WSJ/NBC had Hillary up nine(!) in the four-way race in NC. If that held, it was curtains for Trump: Shifting 15 electoral votes from the red column back to blue would have made it possible for Hillary to lose Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and still win. As it is, he’s led in three of the last four polls in North Carolina; Hillary’s lead in the RCP average is down to a vanishing 0.3 points and her probability of winning the state has shrunk in FiveThirtyEight’s model to 52 percent. She’s campaigning in the state as I write this, in fact. It’s not must-win for her, but if Pennsylvania tightens up, North Carolina will move to would-really-like-to-win status for Democrats.
An interesting number in light of yesterday’s Florida poll from PPP:
Trump’s favorable rating in the Florida poll was effectively the same as Clinton’s, but that’s noticeable improvement. He’s been a few points behind her for most of the year, often pulling 60 percent or worse unfavorable. Not anymore. The “softening” of late may be helping him just enough to become competitive. Relatedly:
Dishonesty is Clinton’s most reliable vulnerability in polls, to the point where even the poorly rated Trump usually leads her on it — usually, but not always, and not always by much. A 10-point advantage here is noteworthy. So are the margins between those who do and don’t see him as honest and those who view him favorably and unfavorably, as both are down to single digits. To see if I’m imagining things about his favorable rating improving across multiple polls, I checked HuffPo’s average of his favorable numbers. The improvement is slight thus far, and his numbers overall are still terrible (as are Hillary’s), but his current mark of 37.9 percent favorable is the best number he’s had since entering the race last summer. He really has reached a new high. Maybe that’s mostly a function of partisanship solidifying as the race reaches the home stretch, with some Republicans who have been iffy on Trump leaning more strongly towards him now. The “softening” can only be helping.
One last note, though, about favorable ratings. Obama’s rating here is 45/50; he averages 53/44 nationally. North Carolina may be purple on Election Day but it’s still reddish overall. That partly explains Trump’s rosier numbers vis-a-vis Clinton, although it doesn’t explain his improving favorable numbers on average across various polls.
So that’s the good news for Trumpers. He’s ahead in Suffolk. The bad news: As I was writing this post, Quinnipiac dropped a new poll of North Carolina too.
Clinton led by four in a CBS/YouGov poll of North Carolina a few days ago too. Trump’s crushing her here among his base of whites without a college degree and even leads among college-educated whites, but not by enough, apparently, to make up for Hillary’s gigantic lead among nonwhites. That was the story in 2012 too, if you believe the exit polls: Obama won 96/4 among the state’s sizable black minority but Romney eked out a win by more than doubling his take among whites, 68/31. Trump needs more of a lead among college-educated white voters there to catch up.