Why Electoral Map expands for Clinton, and shrinks for Trump

logoby  Niall Stanage, The Hill

new mapsSeveral polls in recent days have suggested that states that would not be in play in more normal election years are now competitive, including Arizona and Georgia.

Nationally, new polls from NBC News/Wall Street Journal, McClatchy and Fox News have pegged Clinton’s lead at between 9 and 15 points.

There are still three months to Election Day, giving Trump time to close the gap or overtake Clinton.

But a look at states across the country shows how his Electoral College math has been made more difficult.

By a conservative estimate, Clinton starts off with 195 of the 270 Electoral College votes required to win the White House already in the bank. And it’s not out of question that she could get to almost 400 electoral votes if everything breaks her way.

Here’s how a Clinton landslide would build.

Hold the Rust Belt (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan) = 64 Electoral College votes

Trump has long looked at the Rust Belt as his path to victory, believing his anti-trade, anti-immigration message would resonate with blue collar voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

He’s genuinely competitive in Ohio, where several recent polls have shown the race in an exact tie.

But beyond that, the picture is far brighter for Clinton.

Republican hopes of winning Pennsylvania have been dashed since 1988. President Obama carried the state by 10 points in 2008 and by 6 points in 2012. A new poll in the state, released on Thursday from Franklin & Marshall College, put Clinton up by 11 points.

The picture is similar in Michigan, which was also last carried by a Republican in 1988. Clinton is up 9 points in the latest major poll and by 6 points in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average.

Wisconsin is somewhat closer but still comfortable for Clinton. She is up almost 6 points in the RCP average.

Win Florida’s 29 electoral votes

Florida is the biggest of the classic battleground states. Obama carried the Sunshine State by less than a single point in 2012 and by 2.5 points in 2008.

But Trump’s idiosyncrasies as a candidate could cost him dear. His unpopularity with Hispanics could be a real problem. Clinton leads by 6 points in a new poll from Suffolk University, published Thursday.

Florida is one of many states where changing demographics are tilting the battlefield against Republicans.

The GOP used to be able to hold its own in part because Cuban-Americans were the dominant group within the broader Latino population. Many of those voters were drawn to the vigorous anti-Castro rhetoric of Republican candidates.

Cuban-Americans as a share of the Hispanic population have been in decline for more than 20 years, however. And the youthfulness of the Hispanic electorate more generally — 52 percent are now under the age of 45, according to Reuters — also helps the Democrats.

“There are now more non-Cuban Hispanics registered than Cubans,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida. “And within the Cuban ranks there is a generational schism. The younger Cubans are drawn more toward domestic policy than foreign, and are leaning more Democratic and independent.”

Take back North Carolina and hold Virginia = 28 Electoral College votes

Only eight years ago, President Obama’s achievement in carrying North Carolina and Virginia was seen as evidence of his exceptionality as a candidate. No Democrat had won the former since 1976 or the latter since 1964.

But Obama held Virginia in 2012, even as he lost the Tarheel State by 2 points.

Clinton is the favorite in Virginia, where the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., have become a Democratic stronghold. Her selection of Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.), a former governor of the state, as her running mate is intended to strengthen her there.

Clinton has a 5-point lead in the RCP average in Virginia.

In North Carolina, polling has been sparser. But the bigger picture is one in which several population trends have combined to shift the once-reliably red state to purple status.

“The demographics of the state are becoming much more urban,” said North Carolina Democratic strategist Scott Falmlen. “About 60 percent of the population lives in 15 of our 100 counties. And when you look at exit polls over the last 16, 18 years, newcomers to North Carolina are almost an exact mirror of native North Carolinians. Native North Carolinians tend to support Republican nominees and non-natives tend to support Democratic nominees.”

Hold on to New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada = 20 Electoral College votes

Trump’s rhetoric on immigration in these three states with significant Latino populations could make it tough for him to claw any back from Democrats.

New Mexico was considered a true battleground state not long ago — President George W. Bush carried it in 2004 —  but it is increasingly safe in the Democratic column. President Obama won it by 14 points in 2008 and by almost 10 points four years later.

Clinton’s team already appears so confident of its standing in Colorado that it is not including the Centennial State in its next ad buy. Clinton leads by 8 points in the RCP average.

Nevada, at this stage, looks like a closer race, but Clinton has her nose in front — she’s up 2.5 points, per RCP.

Win Iowa and New Hampshire = 10 electoral votes

Clinton has an ambivalent relationship with Iowa, where she suffered a calamitous loss to Obama in the 2008 primary and only edged out Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt) by a whisker this year.

But polls suggest the state is a jump-ball, and Trump lost the GOP primary there, to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas.). Clinton’s team will expect their organizational abilities to play a pivotal role.

The picture in New Hampshire is far brighter for Democrats. A new poll there Thursday from WBUR gave Clinton a 17-point lead. The same poll sent shockwaves through Republicans in Congress, since it showed incumbent GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte trailing her Democratic challenger, Gov. Maggie Hassan, by 10 points.

Expanding the map: Arizona, Georgia, Missouri and Utah = 43 Electoral College votes

If Trump crumbles, these are the states where Clinton could run up the score.

Arizona would be a huge prize: Obama never got within 8 points of winning it in either of his two presidential elections, and it has been carried by a Democrat only once since 1952  — by President Bill Clinton in his 1996 reelection win. Still, a new poll there Tuesday gave Hillary Clinton a 3-point lead.

The state “might be” competitive, according to Richard Herrera, a political science professor at Arizona State University, who added that “much will depend on the Latino vote.”

A win for Clinton there could also spell trouble for 2008 GOP nominee John McCain, who is fighting for reelection to the Senate.

Elsewhere in these map-expanding states, Clinton was one point up in a poll of Missouri released last week, where Obama lost by almost 10 points in 2012. She is up 3 points in Georgia, according to a new poll released Friday morning. And Republicans reacted with consternation to a June poll in Utah, which showed Clinton tied in a state last won by a Democrat in 1964.

Bonus ball: Montana = 3 Electoral College votes

Polling is all but non-existent here. But President Obama came within 3 points of carrying the state in 2008.

If Trump melts down, it’s well within the bounds of possibility that Clinton could bring it into the Democratic column. She would be the second Clinton to do so — her husband carried the state in 1992.

Follow Niall Stanage @NiallStanage


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