Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump are virtually tied in the three crucial battleground states of Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to the first comprehensive polling snapshot since Trump locked up the nomination a week ago.
A new Quinnipiac University Poll released on Tuesday shows Clinton holding narrow 43 to 42 percent leads over Trump in Florida and Pennsylvania, while Trump leads Clinton in Ohio, 43 to 39 percent. The leads are statistically insignificant, meaning that little more than six months out from the November general election, the two arch rivals are running neck in neck in critical swing states.
While Clinton is all but assured of her party’s nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who continues to battle her in the primaries, performs better than Clinton against Trump in the new polling. Sanders leads Trump in these hypothetical matchups, 44 percent to 42 percent in Florida, 43 percent to 41 percent in Ohio and 47 percent to 41 percent in Pennsylvania. Sanders has done well against Trump in earlier surveys, and he claims he would be a stronger candidate than Clinton in the fall.
The new survey results are an eye opener for some Democrats who assumed that Trump would be relatively easy to beat in the general election because of his high negative ratings -- especially among women, blacks and Hispanics. And indeed, the new polling documents wide gender, age and racial gaps within the electorate, especially among women and white males.
But while Clinton enjoys substantial support among women voters over Trump in all three battleground states, it is not by the wide margins she will need to overcome Trump’s dominance among white men in the general election, according to the poll.
For example, in Florida, Clinton holds a 48 percent to 35 percent lead among women which gives her an overall score of 43 percent among Democratic and Republican voters. But Trump is leading Clinton among men, 49 percent to 36 percent, which leaves him with 42 percent of all voters – or virtually tied with Clinton.
White voters lean Republican in Florida, 52 percent to 33 percent, while minorities favor Democrats over Republicans, 63 percent to 20 percent. Clinton is attracting younger voters, 49 percent to 27 percent, while Trump is attracting the states substantial elderly population, 50 percent to 37 percent.
Neither Clinton nor Trump are particularly popular in Florida – or nationally, for that matter. Both get negative ratings from 57 percent of Florida voters and favorable ratings from just 37 percent. In the end, the two rivals are essentially deadlocked in the state – and things aren’t much different in Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“Six months from Election Day, the presidential races between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the three most crucial states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are too close to call,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, said in a statement.
“At this juncture, Trump is doing better in Pennsylvania than the GOP nominees in 2008 and 2012,” he added. “And the two candidates are about where their party predecessors were at this point in Ohio and Florida.”
The poll, of course, must be taken with a grain of salt. A lot will happen between now and November, and the 2016 campaign is shaping up to be one of the most volatile and dirty campaigns of the modern era. Clinton currently leads Trump by 6.4 percentage points in the average national polling, according to Real Clear Politics. And she begins far ahead of him in the all-important contest for electoral votes.
According to a new analysis by National Public Radio, Clinton, a former New York senator and first lady, would start out this fall with exactly enough electoral votes to win the presidency, 270-191. The analysis is based on states that are considered safe, likely, and lean toward either candidate.
However, Trump has rewritten the political playbook in roaring to the nomination in a crowded field of 17 GOP challengers, which he capped off last week with a major victory over Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). He has repeatedly demonstrated he has the political firepower to expand the GOP political map to include states previously deemed off limits to the Republicans.
Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio will play critical roles in the outcome of the election, and no presidential candidate has won since 1960 without carrying at least two of those three states. In 2012, President Obama carried all three against Republican nominee Mitt Romney, but those races were close. Obama won in Ohio, 50 percent to 47 percent, in Pennsylvania by 52 percent to 47 percent and in Florida, 50 percent to 49 percent.
Clinton is counting on repeating that performance, partly with the help of the president who is planning to actively campaign for her after the Democratic national convention in July. However, Trump has had solid success campaigning in rust belt states including Pennsylvania and Ohio, where his anti-trade, anti-immigration messages have resonated with unemployed, underemployed or just plain angry white men.
According to the new Quinnipiac survey, Pennsylvania voters say 51 percent to 42 percent that Trump would do a better job than Clinton handling the economy. They are divided on who best would handle terrorism, with 47 percent picking Trump and 46 percent choosing Clinton.
In Ohio, meanwhile, voters say by a 52 percent to 40 percent margin that Trump would do a better job than Clinton handling the economy. They also believe, 48 percent to 43 percent, that he would be better in dealing with global terrorism.