US Election: 78 days to go

In eleven weeks, either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will become the President-elect of the United States. Each week I’ll be bringing an update of the state of the race to be the next President and look at one of the crucial swing states which will determine who occupies the White House after January next year. This week I’ll be looking at the Midwestern state of Iowa.

The National Overview on 22 August

For nearly three weeks now, Hillary Clinton has held a lead of somewhere between 6 and 8 percentage points when all the national polls are averaged. The fact that this lead has been persistent even nearly four weeks after the end of the Democratic Convention is good news for Clinton. It does seem now that the election is in a new equilibrium where Clinton has a solid and sustained lead over Trump and the Republican candidate is rapidly running out of time to turn things around.

Source: Huffington Post Poll Tracker

As readers will see from the graph, Hillary Clinton’s vote share has fallen a little from its peak about a week ago, when she was averaging 48%. However, Trump has flatlined at around 40% for some time now. Unless he can rapidly improve on this soon, it will begin to look very grim for him.

The state polling has, if anything, been even more favourable for Clinton. She has clear leads in almost all of the important swing states. With eleven weeks to go, this is how the electoral college map looks:

The changes from last week’s map are as follows:

  • Michigan, Colorado, and Virginia have moved from lean Clinton to solid Clinton.
  • Florida has moved from tossup to lean Clinton.
  • South Carolina has moved from tossup to lean Trump.

It is clear that, even though the national polls are a little all over the place at the moment, Hillary Clinton maintains a very secure lead in the electoral college which determines which candidate wins the election.

In terms of specific polls, there have been three polls out of Ohio (18 EV) that have shown a Clinton lead between 4 and 6 points. But the best poll for Clinton was a Monmouth poll of Florida which showed Clinton up by 9. It can’t be repeated often enough: there is no way that Trump can win this election unless he wins Florida.

In better news for Trump, he is continuing to keep Iowa and Nevada competitive, both states won comfortably by President Obama in 2012. I will look more at Iowa in the next section.

Election Watch: If the election were held today, this is what I predict the electoral college would look like:

Hillary Clinton is currently on course to win in almost exactly the same way that President Obama did in 2012. In fact, the only state which changes from the last election in the map above is North Carolina, which will go from Republican to Democrat. For all the talk of Trump expanding the electoral map and making progress in traditionally Democrat areas, there is currently no evidence that this is happening.

Battleground Watch — Iowa (6 electoral votes):

Iowa is one of the smaller battleground states this year. But it’s also one of the most interesting. Trump has shown surprising strength in a state which President Obama comfortably won twice. Indeed, this is part of a recent trend which has seen politics in Iowa shift considerably to the right in recent years.

Iowa Voting History: Iowa has voted Democrat in five out of the last six elections since 1992. It was one of only two states which voted for Al Gore in 2000 that didn’t then go on to vote for John Kerry in 2004. However, it has often been tightly fought and President Obama won Iowa by just under 6 percentage points, down from 10 points in 2008.

Iowa Demographics: Iowa has a very small non-white population. It has small African American and Hispanic populations, neither of which are more than 5 percent of the overall population. In the 2010 census, the state was 88.7% non-Hispanic white, one of the highest in the country.

Polling: Donald Trump is significantly overperforming in Iowa at the present time. This is part of an underlying shift to the right which has occurred in Iowa in recent years. The state now has two Republican Senators (the Democrats lost the Senate seat they held in 2014 by nearly ten points) and a Republican Governor. I’m not entirely sure of the reasons behind this shift (perhaps someone reading will be able to tell me more!) but it does mean that Iowa is closer than I would have expected, although Clinton has a small lead in the polling average.

If, as many people expect, the election gets closer as we approach November, then Trump may even take the lead in Iowa. It is undoubtedly going to be a very close call in Iowa on election night.

Rating: It is surprising that Clinton might lose Iowa while winning the election overall. But with Trump performing five or six points better in Iowa than he is in the national polls then it is a distinct possibility. Right now, I think the state is leaning ever-so slightly towards Clinton, but in terms of what will happen in November IOWA IS TOO CLOSE TO CALL.

Next week I will look at the state of NEW HAMPSHIRE, the only battleground state in New England, which also has a very interesting Senate race.

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