The States Tighten

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 12, 2016 — As the national popular vote pulls into a virtual dead heat, polls released yesterday in the critical swing states suggest that a similar pattern is occurring in the individual voting entities, too.

To re-cap the Electoral College map, in order to win the national campaign Donald Trump must keep the 24 states Mitt Romney claimed in 2012, including key swing North Carolina, and then win Florida and Ohio. President Obama won both of these latter states in each of his national campaigns. For her victory configuration, Hillary Clinton need only preserve 80 percent of the states that Obama won twice.

Once Trump secures the Romney coalition plus Florida and Ohio, he then must take at least one more state totaling more than 16 Electoral Votes, to reach the minimum victory threshold of 270 Electoral Votes. Adding Pennsylvania, for example, would award Trump the presidency.

Quinnipiac University publicized four state polls yesterday, covering each key swing entity. In Florida and Ohio, the Q-Poll finds Trump returning to parity with Hillary Clinton. He trails in North Carolina, however. Though still behind in Pennsylvania, the research projects him pulling back to within five points of her and halving the deficit he faced in the August Pennsylvania Quinnipiac survey.

Like most pollsters, Quinnipiac presents the Clinton-Trump head-to-head ballot test question to their respondents, and then subsequently tests whether their votes would change if Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein were added as choices. Johnson will be on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia; it appears Stein will qualify in 44 or 45 entities (Rhode Island is still processing her application and signatures).

In Florida, (Aug. 29-Sept. 7; 761 likely Florida voters), the two candidates are tied at 47 percent, a similar finding to Quinnipiac’s Aug. 9 poll that forecast Clinton to be holding a one-point, 46-45 percent edge. When Johnson and Stein are added, the Clinton-Trump margin doesn’t change, but both candidates recede to 43 percent. Johnson picks up five percent support, and Stein two percent. Therefore, at least in Florida, the presence of the two minor party candidates does not appear to have an unbalanced effect upon either candidate.

The Ohio data (Aug. 29-Sept. 7; 775 likely Ohio voters) shows significant improvement for Trump. In the current result, he forges a 46-45 percent edge. In the August Ohio poll, Clinton recorded a 49-45 percent advantage. Here, Johnson exacts a major toll upon Clinton. When adding the minor party candidates, the Trump margin increases to 41-37 percent, with Johnson expanding to 14 percent and Stein posting four percent.

The good news for Clinton begins with the North Carolina poll (Aug. 29-Sept. 7; 751 likely North Carolina voters) as Quinnipiac finds her leading Mr. Trump 47-43 percent. This September poll is the university’s first venture into the Tar Heel State. When Johnson is added – Stein did not qualify here – the margin remains four points, 42-38-15 percent.

But, Suffolk University also released their Tar Heel State survey, taken later (Sept. 5-7) but with a smaller sample of 500 likely voters, and these results find Trump in a reverse position, leading Clinton and Johnson, 44-41-4 percent. The conflicting data again points to North Carolina being too close to call.

Finally, in the Keystone State of Pennsylvania (Aug. 29-Sept. 7; 778 likely Pennsylvania voters), Trump still trails Clinton, but he has made a substantial gain when looking at the early August Q-poll. The new data finds Clinton leading Trump, Johnson, and Stein, 44-39-9-3 percent, which is a net four-point improvement over the 48-39-7-3 percent August Q-Poll split.

The state data now confirming the latest national trend means that we appear headed to a very tight Electoral College final vote.

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