A new poll of Florida that identified respondents who have already cast their ballots for president contains some potentially alarming news for Republican Donald Trump. Not only does it find Democrat Hillary Clinton leading among early voters by 55 percent to 38 percent, it also suggests that Trump is suffering from massive defections among registered Republican voters, with 27 percent of GOP early voters crossing over to cast a vote for Clinton.
TargetSmart estimates that 3,695,359 people have already voted in Florida. In the 2012 presidential election, 8,474,179 votes were cast, so the early vote in 2016 already represents a substantial portion of the overall vote.
The data comes with a number of caveats. The poll was conducted by William & Mary University and TargetSmart, a company that works with Democratic candidates. It was taken before the revelation, last week, that the FBI is looking at additional emails in its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. It also contained questions about allegations of sexual assault leveled at Trump, which would have kept that issue at the front of the minds of respondents. Finally, the sample size is relatively small: 311 early voters in Florida, only 127 of whom are Republicans.
However, the magnitude of the findings -- a 17-point gap among all voters who have already cast a ballot and the 27 percent of crossover Republicans -- are both such that they eclipse even the relatively large margin for error created by such a small sample size. While it may or may not reflect the precise state of affairs in the Sunshine State, it would appear to be a strong indicator of problems for the Trump campaign.
Not all polling in Florida favors Clinton, though. The Real Clear Politics polling average shows Trump with a 45.5 percent to 44.5 percent advantage. Recent polls from The New York Times and Bloomberg have shown the Republican ahead by four and two points, respectively.
By any account, Trump’s effort to win the presidency hinges on a victory in Florida. While not a sufficient condition for a win in the Electoral College, in Trump’s case collecting the state’s 29 electoral votes is a necessary one. He has no viable path to 270 votes that doesn’t involve winning the state he frequently refers to as his “second home.”
In the TargetSmart poll, the situation among voters who have not yet cast ballots was not quite as grim for the GOP candidate. Among respondents who had not yet voted in the election, Trump led Clinton 43-42. However, that one percent difference is well within the margin of error of the poll, and translates as a statistical dead heat.
Interestingly, among those who have not voted yet, the crossover numbers are worse for Clinton than they are for Trump. Of registered Republicans who have not voted yet, 73 percent said they would cast a vote for Trump, and only 12 percent for Clinton. By contrast, Clinton can expect to receive 74 percent of the Democratic vote, but 18 percent of those Democrats say they will choose Trump.
Trump is making a last-minute push in the state, with four appearances there scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday.