ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Donald Trump has landed himself in controversy after controversy over the last month or so. Questions about money he gave to veterans groups, the Trump University fraud case, what he said after the mass shooting in Orlando. So for the last several weeks, the big question was whether any of this would matter for the presidential race. NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro has been studying that very question. How you doing?
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, how are you? Good afternoon.
SIEGEL: Domenico, you've unveiled a new NPR battleground map. You did it on Sunday. I've looked at it, and it looks very much like the old NPR battleground map, except for two states where you've changed them.
MONTANARO: Right. And usually, you know, a lot of these states do wind up staying the same, but there's a battleground of about 11 to 13 states or so that you always watch. And two of them we moved this month. Florida we moved out of toss-up to lean Democratic, and we went the other way with Pennsylvania. We moved it to toss-up from the lean Democratic column.
And there are a couple reasons for this. In Florida, you look at the demography which has grown more Puerto Rican, more Hispanic over the last 10 years especially in that I-4 corridor connecting Tampa to Orlando. People used to think that was a swing area, not so much anymore. Polling has also started to show Clinton with a bit of an edge there. Quinnipiac poll earlier list month showed Clinton with an eight-point lead, so we'll watch that. Of course, Barack Obama only won it by one point and the strict voter ID laws in the state are something that worry Democrats.
In Pennsylvania, on the other hand, you know, even though Democrats have won it since 1992 and have really had a good run there, it started to trend more Republican over the years. Trump is appealing to white blue-collar voters, for example, this year. We've picked up on that in reporting, and the polls certainly show them neck-and-neck.
SIEGEL: OK. So a couple of big states - Pennsylvania now considered a toss-up, you say, and Florida now considered leaning toward Clinton. One has gone in each direction. What does that say about the overall state of the race?
MONTANARO: Well, Hillary Clinton still has a significant advantage. I mean, the fundamentals have favored her and have favored Democrats. In fact, a candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win. In our map, this gets Hillary Clinton to 279 already with just the states that are leaning in her direction.
In other words, the toss-up states that we have in our column right now, Hillary Clinton would need to win any of them. And that means places like Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina. She could win without all of those. Of course, the Clinton campaign is still spending tons of money in all of those lean Democratic states, and they're going to be important battleground places in the election to come.
SIEGEL: But, you know, there are two big polls out over the weekend. One had Clinton up 12 points, and in another she was up just 5 points. Help us understand what is going on here.
MONTANARO: Well, it's important to look beneath the surface of these polls. And the big thing that happened between these two polls - and you're talking about the ABC Washington Post poll and the NBC News Wall Street Journal poll - both very good polls. But the ABC poll had more Democrats sampled in their poll than the NBC poll. They had a plus 12 Democratic Party identification advantage. The NBC one was plus four.
So when you look at that the truth as in most things in life is probably somewhere in between those two things. But over the past month, it's clear that the trend line has been down for Donald Trump, and he's got to make up for that going into the convention and into the heat of the fall campaign.
SIEGEL: But also to return to our initial question, Donald Trump's odd month or so that he's had - I gather you're saying it has taken a toll on his standing in the polls.
MONTANARO: I mean, unquestionably when you look at the trend overall - and I think that's how people really need to look at polls - Donald Trump has been in decline. He's down some seven points on average to Hillary Clinton. And that's something he's going to really have to make up heading into the conventions and into the heat of the fall campaign.
SIEGEL: NPR political editor Domenico Montanaro. Domenico, Thanks.
MONTANARO: Thank you.
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