Reuters' State of the Nation poll shows Trump's odds improving

Has Donald Trump narrowed the probability gap for an Electoral College win? A new analysis of Reuters/Ipsos polling says yes, but don’t get your hopes (or despair, depending on your affiliation) too high. Hillary Clinton’s chances of a narrow Electoral College win have declined twelve points in this analysis over the last three weeks, but only from a sure-thing level:

Republican Donald Trump appears to have carved out a wider path to the White House as a number of states including Florida and Ohio are no longer considered likely wins for Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation project released on Saturday.

The project, which combines opinion polls with an analysis of voting patterns under different election scenarios, still shows Clinton would have the best chance of winning the presidency if the Nov. 8 election were held today. Yet Trump has caught up to her level of support in several states.

Clinton now has an 83 percent chance of winning the election by an average of 47 votes in the Electoral College, the body that ultimately selects the president. In late August, the States of the Nation estimated that Clinton had a 95 percent chance of winning by an average of 108 electoral votes.

Reuters’ Chris Kahn reports that movement in a few key states has made the difference:

The number of states projected for Clinton has dropped over the past few weeks. Two of those states, Ohio and Florida, were considered likely wins for Clinton in late August. Now the candidates are about even in support. Five more states, including Michigan and North Carolina are also up for grabs.

Team Trump has gotten good news of late from Florida and Ohio from other pollsters, notably Quinnipiac. North Carolina has been a mixed bag this month, with a Q-poll showing Hillary up four and a Suffolk survey (landlines only) in the same time frame putting Trump up three.  Movement in Michigan would be a shocker, though; the RCP average has Hillary up over seven points, and Trump hasn’t led in any poll there since August 2015. (The same poll series that gave him that lead, from Fox 2 Detroit, last had Hillary up ten points a month ago.)

The winning scenario for Trump in the Reuters’ data involved a number of unlikely turnout changes. GOP voters would need to increase turnout from a projected 67% to 79%, a tall order given Trump’s difficulties in reaching out to disaffected conservatives. At the same time, older white Democrat turnout would need to drop from 88% to 80%, and younger white Democratic turnout from 52% to 44%. Non-white Democrats would need to turn out under 50% as well. According to Reuters, that would give Trump 301 electoral votes at the current levels of support in their polling.

Of course, that changes if Trump can pick up momentum. Right now, he’s slightly behind in Reuters’ volatile tracking poll, but it’s too close to call at 39.7/38.1. The low levels of support for both candidates suggest that momentum hasn’t emerged for anyone yet. The first candidate to ignite might start a preference cascade, but it will probably take a significant event to touch it off. The debates are looking more and more important.