NPR Battleground Map: Hillary Clinton Solidifies Lead Against Donald Trump

Aug 16, 2016
Originally published on April 5, 2017 6:04 pm

Donald Trump's missteps since the conventions have put Hillary Clinton in a dominant position.

If the election were held today, according to the latest NPR analysis of polling, demographics and on-the-ground reporting, Clinton would win in a landslide of 2008 proportions. She has solidified her leads in key battleground states and crosses the threshold of 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House in the NPR Battleground Map with just states where she already has a significant lead.

In other words, she could lose all of the toss-up states — Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada and Georgia, yes, Georgia now — and still win, as you can see in the map above, 273-174.

Trump has battled a litany of bad headlines, including feuding with a family whose Army captain son was killed in Iraq, declined to support (before endorsing) key Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan, joked that "Second Amendment people" could do something about Clinton, and charged that President Obama (and Clinton) "founded" ISIS. He even said he wanted a crying baby taken out of a rally — after a minute earlier saying he liked it. (He later said he would "sponsor" it. ("And the baby will sing someday in Philharmonic Hall," he said.)

It has meant that key voting groups have moved more toward Hillary Clinton. NPR's Asma Khalid, for example, reported on how white, college-educated voters are converting to Clinton. That's a demographic found in important places, like the suburbs of Philadelphia, Denver and Northern Virginia.

It's been about the worst month any Republican who wants Trump to win could have feared.

Just looking at the polling ...

Clinton 363-174

That's pretty close to Barack Obama's 2008 margin of 365-173 over John McCain. That might be, if not the high-water mark for Clinton, pretty darn close to it. There aren't a lot more states that could go her way.

Of course, few things are likely to remain constant almost three months out from Election Day — and this is just a look at where things stand now. The next big chances Trump has to change the dynamics are the debates. The first is Sept. 26 on Long Island, N.Y., followed by the vice presidential debate Oct. 4 in Virginia, then the second presidential one Oct. 9 in St. Louis and the final debate 10 days later in Las Vegas.

Explaining our changes

Overall, most of our adjustments favored Clinton, including moving the key state of Pennsylvania back into the Lean D column from Tossup, where it stood for a month. There is almost no path for Trump without Pennsylvania.

We also moved three traditionally red states in Clinton's direction — Georgia to Tossup from Lean R; Utah to Lean R from Likely R; and one electoral vote in Nebraska to Tossup from Lean R.

Georgia has seen massive demographic change over the past decade — going from two-thirds white in 2000 to 53-47 percent white to nonwhite now. Remember, Obama only lost it by 5 points in 2008. Some polls are actually showing Clinton in the lead, though both are only in the low 40s. History says this one likely moves back to the Republican column, but for now, it's a Tossup.

In Utah, another poll showed Clinton and Trump within a couple points of each other. There are still a huge number of undecided voters. How much of a factor Gary Johnson will be is a key question. If he can get to the high teens or 20 points, there's a path for Clinton to win it. While we're talking about Johnson, it would be very interesting to see polling in Montana, a place that has a big libertarian streak — and that went for Bill Clinton in 1992, when Ross Perot got more than a quarter of the vote in the state.

And in Nebraska, it splits its votes out by congressional district. Obama won the Omaha-area district, which is far more nonwhite than the rest of the state, in 2008; the Democratic House incumbent Brad Ashford is favored there, and Omaha-based billionaire Warren Buffett is promising to help Clinton there. Let's see where this one moves in the next month or so.

Despite Trump's bad three weeks, he has seemed to hold up in a couple of states that were Lean D — Florida and Nevada. They've moved to Tossup now, as more polling has come out. Given demographics — and Clinton's turnout operation — both states, it could be argued, are favorable for Clinton. But the RNC, which is supplementing Trump's on-the-ground operation, has moved staff to Florida to try to save the state.

The ratings:

Clinton 273-174

Safe D (164): California (55), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (20), Maine* (3), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (11), New York (29), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Washington, D.C. (3), Washington state (12)
Likely D (37): Maine (1), Minnesota (10), New Jersey (14), New Mexico (5), Oregon (7)
Lean D (72): Colorado (9), Michigan (16), New Hampshire (4), Pennsylvania (20), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10)
Pure Tossup (91): Florida (29), Georgia (16), Iowa (6), Nebraska* (1), Nevada (6), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18)
Lean R (17): Arizona (11), Utah (6)
Likely R (21): Indiana (11), Missouri (10),
Safe R (136): Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (6), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska (4), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3)

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And just to make sure you know, here at NPR, we are committed to not just throwing random polls at you all election season. But there have been a bunch of polls since the political conventions last month. And today, we have NPR's political editor Domenico Montanaro with us to look at the battleground states map and see whether the race is any different now than it was a month ago.

Good morning.


MONTAGNE: So there are a dozen battleground states. Well - see, I don't know why that surprises me. I didn't know there were quite so many up for grabs. So - but what jumps out to you when you look at how they're lining up?

MONTANARO: Well - and first, we should say that our battleground map is not just based on polls, although polls are a part of it, but demographics, history, voter trends and our on-the-ground reporting are really what drives a lot of this. And let me just say with - what I see as the biggest change so far in the past month or three weeks - Donald Trump's very difficult three weeks have led to Hillary Clinton solidifying her lead, especially in the states. You know, national polls are nice. They help tell you a little bit about what's happening with the mood of the country, but the states are where the race is really won or lost.

And, you know, the biggest change, for example, I would point to is Pennsylvania. A month ago we had Pennsylvania in toss-up, a state that could go Democrat as easily as it could go Republican. Now that state has moved much more toward Hillary Clinton, so I've listed it on our map as leaning Democrat. And that's a real problem for Donald Trump because Pennsylvania is really a key state for him to win for his chances at the presidency. It's very difficult to find a path for him without winning Pennsylvania.

MONTAGNE: Well, one of the states that you have there is Georgia.

MONTANARO: (Laughter) Yeah.

MONTAGNE: It's a toss-up state now, although it's been Republican - right? - for years.

MONTANARO: Right. And, you know, you might put a finger on the scale for Republicans in Georgia because of the voting trends. But what we've seen in the polling so far is that both candidates are within striking distance of each other, if not some showing Hillary Clinton leading. So Georgia has gone Republican in recent elections. Republicans have won it in every presidential election since 1992. And before that, Jimmy Carter won it in 1976 and 1980.

People think of Georgia as this conservative Southern state. But we should note, Obama only lost it by 5 points in 2008, and there's been a huge demographic shift there over the past 20 years. The gap between whites and nonwhites has shrunk dramatically. In 2000, it was two-thirds white. Now it's almost evenly split. And, of course, Democrats have run up huge margins with black and Latino voters.

MONTAGNE: Now, both candidates - they're going to fight for these states, right?

MONTANARO: Absolutely. And, you know, we should note that this is just a picture in time. There is no way to say that this is predictive of what's going to happen. This is the landscape as it is now. Both candidates are spending money - or at least promising to, in Trump's case - in all of these states. You know, but here's what's amazing about this. If the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would need to just win the states already leaning in her direction, where she has significant leads, and she would cross the number of electoral votes needed to be president.

So to make matters worse for Trump, when you look at the toss-up states, in all of them right now, Hillary Clinton is leading. We're talking about Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Iowa and, yes (laughter), even Georgia. So at this point, because of those controversies with Trump that have found himself in after these conventions, Clinton would win in a landslide of 2008 proportions.

MONTAGNE: Very dramatic sounding.

MONTANARO: (Laughter).

MONTAGNE: Still, three months to go.

MONTANARO: Absolutely true. And a lot can happen - only a picture in time, like I said. But already, it's affecting the way the campaigns spend their money. We've seen the Clinton campaign pull some of the resources out of Colorado and Virginia because they are confident. We've seen, though, the Republican National Committee, who is - which is supplementing a lot of Trump's on-the-ground organization, focusing very intensely on - in Florida. And Trump is still within...


MONTANARO: ...Striking distance in that all-important state.

MONTAGNE: Domenico, thanks very much.

MONTANARO: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: That's NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro with a look at the latest NPR battleground map, which you can view at Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.