Did James Comey do damage to Hillary Clinton with last week’s final FBI report on the e-mail scandal? The latest battleground polls from Quinnipiac suggests he did, especially in Florida. Support for the Democratic nominee plunged eight points in three weeks in the Sunshine State and now trails Donald Trump by three points. The lead also flipped in Pennsylvania, but less dramatically:
With a drop in grades on honesty and moral standards, Democrat Hillary Clinton loses an 8-point lead over Republican Donald Trump in Florida, and finds herself in too-close-to-call races in the three critical swing states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today.
Clinton loses ground on almost every measure from a June 21 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University. The Swing State Poll focuses on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960 no candidate has won the presidential race without taking at least two of these three states.
Interestingly, the numbers for both candidates in Ohio barely budged. In fact, both candidates edged up slightly from a 40%-all tie to a 41%-all tie. Pennsylvania’s contest only changed within the margin of error, going from a 42/41 Hillary edge to 43/41 Trump. The races in both states look more static than dynamic — and that’s curious, given that Team Hillary has been spending a lot more heavily than Team Trump in the Rust Belt.
Most of the impact was in Florida, where Hillary plunged from 47% to 39%. The only dramatic development between the previous June 21 poll and this one is the Comey announcement on July 5th, which came right in the middle of the survey period (June 30 – July 11). It’s possible that the impact might not be fully captured in these polls as a result, or it’s also possible that the impact may be transitory anyway.
What changed in Florida?
While the gender gap remains wide, Trump gains support among men, who back him 50 – 29 percent, and women, who back Clinton 48 – 36 percent, compared to 52 – 34 percent in June. Independent voters shift from 44 – 35 percent for Clinton last month to 43 – 30 percent for Trump today. Republicans back Trump 82 – 6 percent, while Clinton leads 87 – 4 among Democrats. White voters back Trump 54 – 30 percent, as non-white voters go to Clinton 56 – 21 percent.
Florida voters give Clinton and Trump negative favorability ratings, 35 – 59 percent for her and 38 – 54 percent for him.
It might be good to note what didn’t change all that much in Florida: Trump’s overall support. Hillary lost eight points in three weeks, but Trump only picked up three points in the same period, and he’s still not getting out of the low 40s. In the two-candidate model of polling (which is where all these numbers originate), that tends to hint that respondents aren’t switching their allegiance as much as they are frustrated with their previously preferred choice. If that’s the case, then expect Hillary to bounce back — and with the conventions coming up, probably sooner than later.
Trump gets better news when the model shifts to four candidates:
- Florida – Trump leads Clinton 41 – 36 percent, with 7 percent for Libertarian Gary Johnson and 4 percent for Green Party candidate Jill Stein;
- Ohio – Trump at 37 percent to Clinton’s 36 percent, with Johnson at 7 percent and Stein at 6 percent;
- Pennsylvania – Trump over Clinton 40 – 34 percent with 9 percent for Johnson and 3 percent for Stein.
Hillary had a six-point lead in Florida in the four-person race three weeks ago, 42/36. In Pennsylvania, she led 39/36 in the four-way. Ohio remains relatively unchanged, with Trump flipping what had been a 36/38 deficit to a one-point edge.
These are four-person (and more) races in all three states, in that their names will appear on ballots. However, as November comes closer, the outsider bids tend to lose more and more support as voters start getting more pragmatic about their choices. Ironically, Trump needs Johnson and especially Stein to maintain their viability as long as possible, because the race becomes much more difficult as it morphs into a binary mode.
Any way one cuts it, though, this is the kind of news that Trump supporters can cheer … for now. The question becomes whether Trump has the organizational strength and skill to take advantage of this opening and keep momentum going in these battleground states, or whether the Comey effect is just a momentary speed bump for Hillary. In order to take advantage of it, they have to be able to start now. If they aren’t prepared to do anything until after the convention, this opening may close too quickly to exploit it by then.