In order to understand the news this morning about Team Trump pulling out of Virginia, you need to remember that Virginia … isn’t his worst swing-state poll-wise. He’s down 7.5 points in the four-way race there per RCP’s average, although there have been no public polls of the state since the “Access Hollywood” tape dropped and the second debate was held. His worst major battleground state is Pennsylvania, where he’s currently down by an average of 8.7 points, thanks in part to this new Bloomberg poll which has him trailing by nine. Why would he ditch VA but not PA? Maybe his internal polls show more opportunity in the latter state, but it could be as simple as his team knowing how important Pennsylvania is psychologically to Republicans. He was supposed to compete there. Registrations in the state had been trending red and Trump, more so than a traditional white-collar righty like Mitt Romney, was going to connect with PA’s rural white voters. His path to 270 electoral votes is all but shot without Pennsylvania. If he pulls out a month before the election, it’s tantamount to not only conceding the race but conceding that it’ll be a landslide. He can’t quit PA, no matter how bad the numbers get.
Pennsylvania is similar to Virginia, though, in that it’s the college grads in the suburbs in both states who are killing him. If you believe Bloomberg, Clinton’s advantage among that demographic in PA has ballooned over the last few days to ridiculous proportions:
Clinton’s suburban advantage is 18 points larger than President Barack Obama’s winning margin there in 2012, meaning that to match Clinton’s strength in those counties and in urban areas, Trump would have to dramatically improve on his 11-point lead in the rest of the state. Losing Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes would sharply curtail his paths to the White House…
While Clinton’s strength was long assured in the urban Democratic strongholds of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, her fight with Trump would typically be expected to be more competitive in these four suburban counties, which accounted for 22 percent of the state’s vote in 2012. Instead, she carries almost every demographic group tested there, including women 67 percent to 24 percent in the two-way race…
Statewide, 60 percent of likely voters said they were bothered a lot by the 2005 Trump recording, including 24 percent of his own supporters. Among women, 69 percent were bothered a lot, compared to 51 percent of men.
In the four suburban counties, 68 percent of likely voters were bothered a lot, including 76 percent of women, 60 percent of men, and a quarter of Trump supporters.
Boosted by her 28-point margin in the suburbs, she leads 48/39 overall in the state in the four-way race — the fourth time in the last six polls that she’s hit 48 percent or better while, in the same span, Trump has been as high as 40 percent only three times. In the two-way race measured by the same six polls, she’s done 50 percent or better three times. If Trump had any other path to 270, he’d be ready to cut bait on Pennsylvania by now and try a different route. A candidate who was competitive nationally and poised for an upset or two in the Rust Belt could bail on a blue stronghold like PA and still win by assembling a diverse geographic coalition of toss-up states: Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and of course Florida and Ohio. It’d be a longshot, but it’d be some kind of shot. As it is, in terms of his Rust Belt support, a new poll of Michigan dropped yesterday showing him at, er, 31 percent. Now that he’s fading nationally, his best play is to go all-in on the big toss-ups — FL, OH, NC, and PA — and hope to somehow sweep all of them for an electoral-vote jackpot. As I write this on October 13th, he trails in every one of them, even previously pro-Trump Ohio where he’s down half a point now to Clinton.
By the way, Pat Toomey continues to hold his own in Pennsylvania’s Senate race, trailing there by just two points in the Bloomberg poll. He led by four points in the last poll of the state and the poll before that was a tie. It’s a testament to his popularity and to Clinton’s own very weak coattails that Democrats aren’t pulling away despite the Trump nightmare of the past week. In fact, as unbelievable as it seems, Republican Senate candidates nationally have actually gained ground on their opponents since Clinton’s poll surge after the first debate began. Even Ron Johnson, who looked like a sure loser just a few weeks ago, is suddenly competitive with Russ Feingold in Wisconsin. It may be that, as voters reconcile themselves to the dreary reality of a Clinton presidency, they’re splitting their tickets to make sure there’s a Republican check on her in Congress. Seems to hard to believe that phenomenon can survive one Trump scandal after another, especially if Trump himself turns fully against the GOP, but fingers crossed.
The new Rasmussen poll today, by the way, has Trump ahead by two points, the only national poll in the country to have him leading right now. That’s … pretty much the definition of an outlier, but it’s been noted for the record. Here’s Newt Gingrich this morning wondering if “little Trump” will end up defeating “big Trump.” Given what his accusers have suggested about “little Trump’s” behavior over the last 24 hours, it’s a safe bet.