After all the bombast and blunders. After Pussygate, Gropegate and “Nasty Woman.” After repeatedly disrespecting the parents of a heroic Muslim-American soldier. After suggesting he will not accept the results of the November 8 election.
After probably paying not a dime in federal income taxes for almost two decades. After allegedly flim-flamming Americans trying to get ahead with his so-called Trump University. After all that and more, does Donald John Trump, the 70-year-old New York real estate mogul and reality TV star still have a shot at being president of the United States? Really?
The answer, according to the data-intensive website FiveThirtyEight, is yes – despite Hillary Clinton’s 5.8-point lead an average of national polls.
According to the site’s data calculations, out of 10,000 simulations of the Electoral College map, Trump comes out on top in 1,137 results. That gives him an 11.4 percent chance of winning. But to get to the magic electoral vote number of 270, FiveThirtyEight says Trump must almost certainly win six states: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio.
Is that at all feasible?
In Florida, the RealClear Politics poll average today awards Hillary Clinton a 1.6-point edge. But a Bloomberg poll – the most recent there -- gives Trump a 2-point lead among all voters and the same advantage among critical independents. In 2012, Barack Obama took Florida by 0.9 percent, however he bested Mitt Romney by 3 points among independents. So for the sake of argument, cede Florida to Trump.
The most recent poll in Iowa is from October 3-6, but Trump has a 3.7-point edge in a state that Obama won in 2012. The RCP average there also shows 8.3 percent for Gary Johnson, whose candidacy looks to be in free fall. As more voters move away from Johnson, expect Trump’s numbers to grow. Give him Iowa.
In Ohio, despite the disapproval of popular Governor and vanquished primary rival John Kasich, Trump has a 1.1 percent lead, according to RCP. But in the six most recent polls, he and Clinton are tied in two and she is ahead in one. In two of the three others in which Trump is ahead – including the most recent – his margin is 4 points. Put Ohio in the Trump column, too.
That leaves Arizona, Nevada and North Carolina.
In Arizona, Clinton has a 1.5-point lead in the RCP average of recent polls, though the most recent has Trump ahead by 1 percent. As The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, Clinton has opened 32 offices in Arizona and Trump has little or no ground game. Besides that, he remains at odds with both of Arizona’s senators, veteran John McCain and Jeff Flake.
Perhaps his most ardent supporter there, controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, was charged with contempt of court on Tuesday and faces a huge deficit in re-election polls. Arpaio has incited the opposition of Latinos, and that could blow back on Trump. What’s more the influential Arizona Republic has editorialized in favor of Clinton, its first Democratic endorsement in 120 years. Doesn’t look good for Trump, but Arizona remains possible.
The most recent poll in Nevada says Trump and Clinton are in a dead heat. The second-most-recent poll – by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which is owned by billionaire Trump backer Shelley Adelson and has endorsed the GOP nominee – has Clinton ahead by 7 points as of Sunday. But CNN, which had moved Nevada to “leans Democratic” today has returned its status to “battleground state” and says it remains a margin-of-error race. You can’t count Trump out in Nevada.
Real Clear Politics gives Clinton a 2-point lead in North Carolina, which reflects her strength in five of the last six polls. But the most recent surveys are far apart. A New York Times/College poll conducted from Oct. 20-24 put her 7 points ahead. A Remington Research poll taken Oct. 20-22 gives Trump a 3-point lead. And a Monmouth University survey taken from Oct. 20-23 says Clinton has a margin-of-error advantage of 1 point. Trump held two rallies in North Carolina yesterday.
At one he pointedly appealed to African Americans, pledging a “new deal for black Americans” and promising never to take that community for granted. With his national support among blacks in the single digits, he must peel away some African American voters from Clinton or pray her perceived advantage leads to a low turnout. Of the six states he must win, North Carolina right now looks like the biggest leap but still winnable.
If Trump captured all the states Romney won (206 votes), plus FiveThirtyEight’s four must-win battleground states not on that list (Florida, Iowa, Nevada and Ohio), plus Maine where he leads, he would be at 267—three votes short. If the polls turn out to be flawed in Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin -- where Clinton is ahead by from 5 points to 6.7 points—Trump could claim victory.