Seven swing states? Seven battleground counties as bellwethers for the presidential election? Why does this sound so … familiar? Axiom Strategies and Remington Research have teamed up to provide a look at polling in key counties as an indicator for November, and two of the seven — and five of the seven states — match up with my book Going Red.

At the moment, the Axiom Battleground Counties (ABC) survey shows some good news for Donald Trump:

axiom-battleground

The first two counties in the ABC series match up exactly with Going Red. ABC also picks up Ohio, North Carolina, and Virginia as key states, although they choose different counties as bellwethers. In their launch, ABC explains that they are looking for counties that matched most closely with the end result in the last four presidential elections, while my selection focused on counties where Bush won and Republicans lost to Barack Obama, as well as offering a look at demographic profiles that matched up with the state as a whole.

Either approach works for this kind of analysis, and this survey should provide us a very good look at the progress of the election … eventually. The problem at the moment is that head-to-heads still make for an apples-to-oranges comparison. Trump has had no competition in the GOP for almost four weeks, which has allowed Republican voters to coalesce around his candidacy. Democrats have been split between Hillary and Bernie Sanders, which means that her support at this stage under-represents what she can expect to get in November, probably by a significant amount.

We can see hints of this in the results above. Trump has a majority in Luzerne, PA, which outstrips Mitt Romney’s eventual 47.56%, while Trump barely misses Romney’s 48.11% in Washoe, NV. The rest of his leads are significantly off the mark from Romney’s 2012 results:

  • Hillsborough, FL – 46.62%, 5 points off
  • Watauga, NC – 51.6%, 8 points off
  • Sandusky, OH – 51.39%, 12 points off

As Sanders exits the race and presumably throws in with Hillary, we will begin to see a polling bump that will likely be reflected in surveys toward the end of this month. Some of that may end up being exaggerated, too, at least at first, but it will give us a better idea of where the race stands heading into the conventions. Scott Rasmussen looks at prediction markets and believes the Hillary bump has now begun:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a big night Tuesday to wrap up the Democratic nomination. Her bigger than expected victory in California has given her momentum as the General Election season begins.

Clinton’s chances have improved in seven nights according to overnight changes on PredictIt.org, a leading prediction market.

According to the market ratings, two states with 47 Electoral College votes shifted from Toss-Up status to Leans Democrat: Florida and Ohio.

Four states with 38 Electoral College votes shifted from Leans Democrat to Likely Democrat: Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Wisconsin.

Remington’s Titus Bond tells me via e-mail that the bigger shifts will likely come after the conventions, and will depend on whether Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson can hang onto his support:

I definitely see these results shifting. I think the sizable shift will be after the highs of conventions wears off.

The biggest gains from Clinton or Trump will most likely come from “someone else” and Gary Johnson voters. Right now we are still fresh with the nominees. The question is will rank and file Democrats and Republicans come home for each of their nominees? Right now that is not certain for either candidate.

The results in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania (Wilkes-Barre, Scranton) certainly show promise for Trump. ABC’s polling memo shows that he has a 51% favorable rating there while Hillary’s favorable rating is double-digit negative, in a county of 320,000 people — sizable enough to matter. There hasn’t been any state-wide polling in PA since Trump emerged as the presumptive nominee, but what there was prior to that didn’t seem to provide much reason for hope. His best showing came in April’s Fox News poll, where he tied Hillary at 44%. Romney got 47% of the PA vote in 2012, within the MOE, but a majority would be outside the MOE on that poll. Luzerne is part of two Congressional districts, the 11th (Cook rating R+6) and the 17th (D+4), which makes it appear fairly balanced. If Trump can hold a majority there, then perhaps we will see other polling in Pennsylvania that shows a competitive position for Republicans for the first time since 1988. That’s a might big if, though, and depends on how well Hillary can unite Democrats behind her.

Even with that, though, the prospects don’t look great for Trump. With Trump only outperforming Romney in PA and maybe Nevada, that would result in a 306-232 Electoral College win for Hillary Clinton, assuming Trump holds the rest of the states Romney won. He might compete more broadly, but at least thus far, there isn’t much evidence of it.