The race for president has been a roller coaster ride in 2016, there have been that many ups and downs for everyone involved or watching. The latest polls do not deviate from that at all. Recent polls have seen Trump surge ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire, and even Virginia which has slowly trended from Republican red to Democratic blue over the last 20 years. Colorado, a former Clinton lock and no longer a swing state is back in play and Nevada could just as easily end up in Trump's column as Hillary's. Some of these recent polls though, are still outliers in the state by state races, but their recency and unitary direction do corroborate a trend towards Trump.
Many will argue that it's as a result of the FBI Director Comey's re-opening of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails, but as I and others have noted, the tightening of the polls started before that and pretty rapidly too. Polling has been recalibrated as there has been a lot of evidence of Democrat oversampling versus Republicans and Independents that pollsters could not carry through election days lest they look unscientific.
That is all beside the point anyway and we are where we are regardless of how we got here. And where we are right now is striking. This is how I see the current situation. (Map-sharing courtesy of 270towin.com).
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A tie, with each candidate 1 electoral vote short of 270 (now you can see why 270towin got their website name). The election is in 5 days from today (6 including today) and the polling is not over. The trending is not over. Everyone is waiting for the next shoe to drop and guessing what it might be - an FBI Clinton indictment, another WikiLeaks bombshell, a Donald Trump October surprise? No one knows.
But let's assume for a moment that it's status quo through election day and there are no more last minute events. Here's where, if the above holds true either candidate can get that electoral college win.
Hillary currently has the easier path.
(1) North Carolina is the most obvious opportunity. While Trump appears to be leading the margin is still razor thin. A strong get out the vote effort might put her over the top. If NC flips to her column, it's over.
(2) Florida - Hillary through a combination of advertising, stumping and possible nefarious activities could pull off the state.
(3) Nevada is also a possibility, it''s a traditionally Democratic state and a later state to vote. Democrats there could be energized to turn out if they are aware that it's a tight race nationally.
(4) The Utah gambit. Utah has a large Mormon population and they do not like Trump. Consequently a third candidate is close to Trump in polling there. Should Trump lose the state to him, the election goes to Congress to decide. With Clinton at 269 and Trump at 263 and this McMullin guy at 6, there would be intense pressure for the Republican congress to select Hillary as the next president seeing as she would have the electoral college lead. There is no requirement that they do so, and she's probably loath to count on that possibility, never theless there are a number of #NeverTrump Republican establishment types and combined with the number of Democrats in Congress, it's possible she could win this way. However, polling has indicated Trump is starting to pull ahead in the state so it still is the least likely scenario for her.
As another point that works in Hillary's favor New Hampshire may revert to norm and go Democrat. I'm of the opinion that it will surprise people and vote Trump. Should that prove false Hillary will win regardless of teh other options. However, should any Trump win scenario but one pan out, New Hampshire won't matter.
Absent more momentum, and stuck in a tie Trump will have to rely on a polling error in a marginally Clinton state to win. His best hope is that the momentum continues. If it does several states could flip and he could win easily. Failing that the race comes down to one of three most feasible scenarios for a Trump win; Colorado flips, Virginia flips or Maine CD2 flips. All would require the latest polls to be slightly off.
(1) The RCP average of polls for Colorado has Clinton up 1.7%, within the margin of error, and with the latest poll an actual tie, and overall average-wise with Trump surging. Trump has led Clinton earlier in the state, as late as early October. Absent more momentum, this could be down to a recount and a late night next Tuesday for election watchers.
(2) Virginia seems like it would be the hardest flip for Trump. There is no doubt Trump is surging there but he still has a 3.4 point gap in the RCP average for the state. Absent continued momentum Trump will not win Virginia. Unless the Hampton University poll is correct. It might be.
(3) One of the first states to close it's polls could determine the election. This one I think is well within Trump's grasp and I'd say with 60% certainty, he'll win it, despite trailing right now. Maine splits its electoral college votes - 2 go to the statewide winner (Clinton), one goes to the winner of congressional district 1 (also Clinton) and 1 goes to the winner of Congressional District 2. The latter, currently is leaning towards Clinton. However, Trump has led most of the election cycle for that CD's one electoral college vote (from June to mid-October, at one point by as much as 14%). The district is a typically Republican, rural district which would indicate a Trump support base. Additionally all the polls in the district are very small, in the 300 responder range. The one exception from early October had 800+ responders and showed Trump up 1. Should Trump win Maine CD2 and nothing else varies from the above map, Trump would win 270 to 268.
The dark horse for Trump is Pennsylvania. He's trending upward there quickly. But it's always been a tantalizing tease for Republicans. Trump winning there would mean he's probably also won Colorado or Virginia. Winning Pennsylvania without winning other toss up states would be a weird result.
At this point the race is truly a toss up. Either candidate could win. Trump's momentum may carry him well past Clinton. Or he may hit a ceiling and come up just short in a swing state or two. The momentum might still change with some other October surprise. Have the Democrats thrown all of their ammo at Trump already? That's hard to say. Is the FBI going to announce anything? What will WikiLeaks share this week? Hang on tight - it's going to be a really wild finish, wilder than the Cubs vs. Indians World Series game 7.