Three paths that deliver Trump the win – Politico
With three full days left in the campaign, Donald Trump’s pathway to the presidency is narrow, defined and unforgiving.
It begins by the Republican nominee, who continues to trail Hillary Clinton in most national polls, sweeping three must-win electorally rich battleground states: Ohio (18 electoral votes), Florida (27) and North Carolina (15).
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Those states are hardly a certainty. In Florida, surveys show the race is knotted. In North Carolina, Trump has trailed in 20 of the 24 polls since the first debate. He looks strongest in Ohio where he has led or tied in the last nine polls.
From there, Trump must also hold all the states that Mitt Romney won in 2012, including Utah, Arizona and Georgia.
In Utah, where Trump’s favorability rating is shockingly low, he is fending off Clinton, independent challenger Evan McMullin and Libertarian Gary Johnson. In Arizona, Clinton has launched a last-minute incursion for its 11 electoral votes, as both she and running mate Tim Kaine have campaigned there and flooded the airwaves with anti-Trump ads in the increasingly Hispanic state. (Georgia is far more of a reach for the Democratic ticket.)
Those are just the table stakes for Trump.
“Basically, what he’s got to do is draw an inside straight,” said Whit Ayres, a longtime Republican pollster.
If Trump wins Florida and Ohio and North Carolina (and protects the GOP turn of Arizona and Utah and Georgia), he would stand at 253 electoral votes — 17 shy of the magic number of 270.
Those final 17 electoral votes have proved trickiest. Here are his treacherous paths:
1. Win the Keystone State
Pennsylvania (20): 273 electoral votes
On paper, this is the simplest and fastest path. Trump needs only to add Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes to win. But the reality on the ground is far thornier. Trump has trailed in 39 consecutive Pennsylvania polls, dating back to the conventions (though one GOP poll this week showed it tied).
Trump has visited over and over, targeting it perhaps foremost as the state in the so-called blue wall — states and D.C. that have gone Democratic in every contest since 1992 worth a combined 242 electoral votes — that he hopes to steal back. It was in Pennsylvania that Trump delivered his big anti-trade speech months ago as his campaign hoped to gin up protectionist-favoring turnout in the mining-heavy and more conservative western and central regions of the state.
But Trump’s long history of attacks on women have hamstrung him in the voter-rich Philadelphia suburbs. A Monmouth University poll this week showed Clinton up 62 percent to 29 percent in Philadelphia and its suburbs. So it was no accident that those suburban counties were where Trump campaigned with running mate Mike Pence against Obamacare on Tuesday, and where the campaign had Melania Trump deliver her first solo speech on Thursday.
Pennsylvania has proved a tempting mirage for Republicans in years past, as it was the sixth closest swing state in 2012, with Romney losing by a little more than 5 percentage points after a late push. Clinton and the Democrats have circled the state as their firewall since the summer.
One wild card is this state does not allow early voting so Clinton’s fearsome get-out-the-vote machinery has been unable to flex its muscle. Motivating voters on the eve of the election is one reason Clinton herself and Vice President Joe Biden will be in different parts of the state throughout the weekend. And the fact that Clinton will hold her final big rally of the race in Philadelphia on Monday is no accident. It will be her first joint event with the combined firepower of President Bill Clinton, President Obama, and Michelle Obama.
2. Cobble together four states
Iowa (6), Nevada (6), Maine-2 (1), New Hampshire (4): 270 electoral votes
If Trump can’t win Pennsylvania — and there are few outward positive signs there — every other path requires carrying multiple states.
Clinton operatives concede that Iowa, along with Ohio, is the swing state they are most likely to lose next Tuesday. In fact, some political operatives see it as more likely that Trump carries Iowa — a very white state — than more diverse Florida and North Carolina. The trouble for Trump is it is only worth six electoral college votes.
So he’d only be at 259.
Trump has shown some signs of late movement in Nevada, adding a stop there Saturday as one CNN survey shows him ahead. The state presents two fascinating demographic cross currents: it is the most Hispanic swing state in the country while at the same time home to the fewest white voters with a college degree of any battleground. The former vote overwhelmingly for Clinton; the latter for Trump.
Win there, and he’s at 265.
He’ll need more pick-ups: carrying Maine’s more rural second congressional district (where he has campaigned repeatedly for one electoral vote) and where polls have shown a competitive race, and New Hampshire.
New Hampshire, of course, was the home to Trump’s first primary victory. But he has trailed there in every general election poll since July — until this week. Then, all of a sudden, three surveys in recent days have shown him ahead (though two were from pollsters with an unreliable records). Both Clinton and Trump will visit New Hampshire again between now and the election.
Among Democrats, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania have been widely viewed as Clinton’s firewall states. They are the places she could make a stand, even if things go south elsewhere. Because if she holds onto both places, she could win even if she loses in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, Arizona and Maine’s second district.
Which would leave Trump with one final shot…
3. Pull off a shocker
Combine Iowa (6) and/or Nevada (6) with some wild card state: Michigan (16), Wisconsin (10), Virginia (13), Colorado (9), New Mexico (5)
Trump has launched a last-ditch effort to expand the map in these final weeks, campaigning in New Mexico on October 30, Michigan on October 31, and Wisconsin on November 1. He’s bought ads in those three states, and added more in Colorado and Virginia, two states that Clinton stopped advertising in because her lead had grown so large.
The Trump campaign has sold this as going on offense following the fresh FBI review of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s emails.
But while it is true that Trump’s standing has improved, even Republicans sense it is unlikely he is suddenly flipping states that Democrats had locked up earlier in the cycle.
“When the FBI thing hit, you saw Trump bump his ceiling by two points,” said Republican pollster Ed Goeas. That’s the good news. The bad news, Goeas said: “He’s still behind her.”
To get to 270, Trump would have to add either Virginia or Michigan to an Iowa win, or add Iowa plus some unlikely combination of these other states.
Earlier in the cycle, Trump’s team had touted his “Rust Belt” strategy of flipping Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin with his populist and protectionist message. But as the election neared, those latter two hadn’t appeared competitive as Clinton, flush with cash, opted not to buy ads there.
If he can’t carry Pennsylvania or New Hampshire, his last, best shot would be a shocker here.