The past month has not been kind to Donald Trump.
He has landed in controversy on everything from how much he (eventually) gave to veterans groups to Trump University (and the judge who he declared biased because of his Mexican heritage) to his response to the Orlando shooting.
National polling has certainly reflected that — Hillary Clinton has opened up a 6-point lead in the RealClearPolitics average of the polls after the two were tied at the end of May. But Trump continues to be competitive in places like Ohio and Pennsylvania because of blue-collar white voters. Polling and reporting bears that out. NPR's Don Gonyea, for example, traveled to Northeastern Ohio earlier this month and found Rust Belt union voters, people who should be reliable Democrats, considering Trump, in part, because of his trade message.
Still, there appears to be some earth shifting beneath Trump's feet, especially with disunity between Trump and party leaders and the pause he's giving some rank-and-file, mainstream Republicans. At the same time, Democrats have moved more toward unity. Clinton joined Trump as the presumptive nominee for her party, got the endorsement of President Obama and liberal hero Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Bernie Sanders is inching closer to endorsing her.
When evaluating the landscape this month, we have made some changes to the NPR Battleground Map, most notably:
-Florida (29 EVs) moves from Toss Up to Lean D
-Pennsylvania (20 EVs) moves from Lean D to Toss Up
The changes are net-plus of 9 Electoral Votes for Clinton from last month's initial ratings. It moves Clinton's advantage in our map over Trump to 279-191, as you can see in our battleground map above. (This style of map is new this month and reflects a proportional representation of each state by Electoral Vote strength.)
A presidential candidate needs 270 Electoral Votes to become president. In other words, if Clinton wins just the states leaning in her direction, she would be president without needing any of the toss up states — Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio or Pennsylvania. (If you want to read about Trump's potential path, check out the write up of our initial ratings last month.)
Because of demographics, Florida has appeared to us to be, if not leaning, moving toward Democrats, especially with Trump on the ticket.
Adam Smith at the Tampa Bay Times noted:
"A candidate wildly unpopular with non-white voters and presiding over a deeply fractured party with swaths of voters who can't stomach their nominee simply has little shot of winning a state as diverse and competitive as Florida. This, at least, is the conventional wisdom from wise political players who never imagined the reality star could win the Republican nomination against Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. TheTampa Bay Times surveyed more than 130 Florida political professionals, fundraisers and other experienced politicos, and nearly 70 percent predicted Clinton will win Florida in November. ...
"Florida being Florida, the safe assumption is that the numbers will tighten into a neck-and-neck contest by November. Yes, Trump can win America's biggest battleground state, but only if the GOP closes ranks behind him. And only if he can perform far better against Clinton than Mitt Romney did against Barack Obama in places like Tampa Bay and North Florida to compensate for what most experts predict will be a historic Democratic drubbing in vote-rich southeast Florida."
A Quinnipiac poll this month showed Clinton up 8 (47 to 39 percent), though she only leads by 3 in the RCP average. Of course, while the fundamentals appear to favor Clinton there, Obama won it by less than a point in 2012 and Democrats worry that strict Voter ID laws could make it tight.
Democrats have won Pennsylvania in every presidential election in the last quarter-century (since 1992). But Pennsylvania is a place that is an emerging battleground.
As David Wasserman wrote at 538:
"I'd argue Pennsylvania has leapfrogged Colorado and Virginia as the next most winnable state for Republicans. In fact, it may be on pace to claim sole 'tipping point' status. As it turns out, Colorado and Virginia are among the top 10 fastest Democratic-trending states in the nation — they are, respectively, getting about 0.9 percentage points and 1.2 points more Democratic-leaning compared with the country every four years. By contrast, Pennsylvania has gradually migrated in the opposite direction. It's gotten about 0.4 percentage points more Republican every four years. Projecting this trend forward another four years from 2012's results would reorder the existing battleground states on the 2016 electoral map."
NPR's Steve Inskeep and the team at NPR's Morning Edition traveled to a key county in Pennsylvania recently in The View From Here series — Bucks County. It's the kind of place Donald Trump likely has to win if he wants to win Pennsylvania. Obama won it twice, narrowly in 2012, as did John Kerry in 2004. Blue-collar whites were open to Trump's message.
That's also true elsewhere in the state as well. See Politico's piece on Cambria County in the Western part of the state. It went for Romney, but is indicative of the trend in a place that used to go for Democrats. The key in Pennsylvania — especially places like Bucks that has a higher rate of college graduates than the country at large (37 percent vs. 29 percent) — is if Trump's tone turns off GOP and independent white professionals.
The RCP average has Clinton just 0.5 percentage points ahead with polls this month showing her in the low 40s and 1-point, non-statistically significant, leads. Clinton has work to do to keep this state blue.
-Georgia (16 EVs) from Likely R to Lean R: Georgia's demographic trends are unmistakable. The white versus non-white vote has drastically declined over the last couple of decades. Trump is still the favorite, but, like Obama in 2008, who finished just 5 points behind, the RCP average right now is just 4.
-Nebraska (1EV) from Likely R to Lean R: Nebraska is one of those states that splits its electoral votes by congressional district. This one, in the Omaha area, is the most left-leaning in the state. (Obama won it in 2008.) There is a Democratic congressman there, Brad Ashford, who was endorsed Monday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
-Utah (6 EVs): There's been a lot of talk about Utah and whether it should move to Lean R. Mormons remain unconvinced of Trump and his morality, and because of that he's been struggling in the polls. But Clinton hasn't seen much of a boost, polling in the 30s. No Democrat has won more than 35 percent (Obama in 2008) in Utah in the last 50 years. Now, if Clinton starts to poll in the 30s, or Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, starts to get in the mid-to-high teens, then this state could be for real. But until then, it remains Likely R.
Here's the full breakdown:
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 (78): Florida (29), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Hampshire (4), Virginia (13), Wisconsin (10)
Pure Tossup (68): Colorado (9), Iowa (6), North Carolina (15), Ohio (18), Pennsylvania (20)
Lean R (28): Arizona (11), Georgia (16), Nebraska* (1),
Likely R (27): Indiana (11), Missouri (10), Utah (6)
Safe R (136): Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arkansas (8), Idaho (4), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (8), Mississippi (6), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Dakota (3), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (9), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (38), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3)