For now, anyway. A month ago, analysts thought Hillary Clinton had enough of a lead in the Electoral College that she could coast to the finish line. She’s coasted ever since, and that has finally caught up to her — and so has Donald Trump. Politico polling analyst Stephen Shepard writes that current polling would give Trump 266 electoral votes, with any number of states available to give him the majority:
Just six weeks ago, Hillary Clinton’s advantage in the Electoral College looked insurmountable. Now, based on the latest round of public polls, it’s a different story.
If the election were held today, Donald Trump would apparently win roughly as many electoral votes as Hillary Clinton — who held a commanding lead in early August and seemed to be closing off all possible Trump routes to 270 electoral votes. …
A slightly more aggressive estimate could add Nevada, North Carolina and one electoral vote in Maine to Trump’s tally: The New York real-estate magnate is ahead in the most recent polls in Nevada and North Carolina, and in Maine’s Second Congressional District.
That, plus all the other states Mitt Romney won four years ago, would get Trump to 266 electoral votes — just four shy of the 270 needed to win. Clinton’s once-comfortable cushion has been deflated to such an extent that if Trump wins those states and the electoral vote in Maine, he only needs one more state to win — with Colorado, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia the most likely targets. And there’s recent polling evidence suggesting he is in striking distance in some of those states.
Perhaps a more accurate statement would be that Trump is no longer a long shot for 270. Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio have begun swinging toward Trump, but Florida in particular remains close. Trump has only a 0.7-point lead in the RCP average, and just edges out Hillary in Nate Silver’s calculations. In fact, Silver still has a Hillary victory at a 60/40 prediction, which he told me yesterday on my show is only a little better than a toss-up — but with a likely Electoral College outcome of 288 votes. At the moment, anyway.
The map has brightened considerably for Trump in the past month in both RCP and FiveThirtyEight calculations, but a Trump lead has not quite emerged. Breakout states like Pennsylvania and Virginia still appear more likely to go Democrat than Republican, even if less so than a month ago (75% and 69% respectively in Silver’s analysis, Hillary +5.8 and +5.2 in RCP averages). Even if Trump carries the states leaning his way on Silver’s current map, he only gets to 259 electoral votes. Adding Nevada, where he’s been competitive but still leans a bit to Hillary, gets him to 265. He’s not there yet, and the “lock” hasn’t broken — although it does seem that Trump’s getting better at picking it.
This race has had more volatility than any in recent memory, too, so there are two more questions to consider. First, how low can Hillary go, and how high can Trump go? He’s approaching his previous ceiling in the race, and with his favorability numbers, there’s a serious question as to whether he can improve his upside past that point. Even without considering ceilings and floors, the race keeps shifting very quickly. Team Hillary learned this week that Electoral College locks don’t last long, but Team Trump might be another Khan-troversy away from discovering that one can inadvertently lock it again. In other words, in this election, the last person at the lock might make the difference.