Don’t be intimidated by statistical experts and contradictory polls. The table below shows you how to use any swing-state poll to check if Donald Trump is on track to clear the nation’s 270-vote electoral bar in his race to become President.
For example, if you can subtract three points from Trump’s poll score in North Carolina and he’s still got a state majority, he’s likely getting enough nationwide poll support to win 270 electoral votes nationwide.
Likewise, if Trump reaches 50 percent when you add three points to his poll score in a Michigan state poll, he’s likely getting enough national support to win the presidency.
Here’s the state-by-state discounts, and the electoral votes gained or lost from each state-wide vote.
|State||Trump is likely winning nationally if this adjustment to a new state poll puts him at the 50 percent level in the state.||Electoral vote payoff if Trump get a majority in that state|
|Real Clear Politics (national)||Add, 0.5%||538|
|LA Times (national)||Add, 0.5%||538|
|North Carolina||Subtract, -3.0%||15|
When these numbers are applied to the results of Aug. 4 polls, we can see that Trump would lose nationally by 7.7 percent.
But Thursday’s state and national poll numbers now suggest that he’s only down by 2 points nationally.
The table excludes the 23 states Trump is most likely to win, and the 15 states and District of Columbia that Clinton is most likely to win. Those committed states give both candidates an even number of 190 electoral votes each, and leave both candidates 80 electoral votes short of a victory. There’s not much point in paying attention to these polls, because of Clinton is somehow losing California, and Trump is actually losing Georgia, the race is already decided against them.
The race will be won and lost in the 12 swing-voting battleground states. So far, they project to line up about a half point apart after North Carolina, with Michigan being Trump’s weakest battleground state. There, he’s expected to run about 6 points behind North Carolina and 3 points behind his national performance.
Trump’s second best state is Iowa (-2.5), then Maine’s 2nd Congressional District (-2.0), Ohio (-1.5), Florida (-1.0), Nevada (-0.5) and New Hampshire (0.0 toss-up) If he’s getting 50 percent in those states after our modifications to his polling number, he’s on track to a national 270-268 win.
Likewise, a tied poll in Pennsylvania show he’s likely leading the national race by 0.5 percent, and thus get the presidency at 270-268 electoral votes. Trump just has to get close in Virginia (+1.0), Colorado (+1.5), Minnesota (+2.0), Wisconsin (+2.5) and Michigan (+3.0) to show he is on pace to win the Presidency.
This simpler approach allows us to ignore polls in the 38 states that provide the 190-190 starting point in the close race. Sure, the bottom could fall out and Trump could lose Georgia and Arizona, but if that happens it means Clinton is so far ahead that there is no need to track anything.
The assumption is that a rising tide lifts all ships to some degree, though certainly any given state could move out of formation.
People asked how I was the first to know that Eric Cantor was defeated after only three precincts were reported, but it was easy to see because Cantor won a precinct near his home by five percent less than he should have won it, and then Dave Brat won a precinct in a friendly county by more than he should have, so they were already on pace for a 55% to 45% race that continued to play out through the other hundreds of precincts.
Here is the math for every day from August 4 that had battleground state and national polls and what the projected national margin would be if the election were held that day (days with no state polls are skipped):
August 18 (-2.0): The +0.5 yields an LA Times tracking of a 0.7 point lead for Clinton (-0.7), a National Real Clear Politics average of a 2.8-point Clinton lead (-2.8) and a 2-point Clinton lead in Nevada turns to (-2.5) since in a tie race Trump should win Nevada by 0.5 so he is actually 2.5 off the paces he needs. Average the three together and Trump projects to be 2.0 points off the pace he needs to win, his second best result since he dropped to a (-7.7) August 4. The average of the other days follows.
August 17 (-5.8): Colorado (-6.5), Iowa (-4.5), Michigan (-8), LA Times (0.1) and Virginia (-10).
August 16 (-5.6): Florida (-10), Real Clear (-6), LA Times (-0.5), and Virginia (-6).
August 14 (-5.7): Florida (-6), Real Clear (-4.5), LA Times (-3.1), and New Hampshire (-9).
August 12 (-7.2): Colorado (-10.5), Florida (-6), Real Clear (-0.5), LA Times (-3), North Carolina (-12), and Virginia (-11).
August 11 (-1.4): Florida (-2), Iowa (-1.5) and LA Times (-0.6).
August 10 (-5.3): Iowa (-2.5), Real Clear (-3.5), LA Times (-1), Ohio (-5.5), Pennsylvania (-8.5), and Wisconsin (-10.5).
August 9 (-4.1): Florida (-1), Real Clear (-5.5), LA Times (-0.9), North Carolina (-5), Ohio (-3.5), and Pennsylvania (-8.5).
August 8 (-6.2): Real Clear (-10), LA Times (-1.2), Nevada (-2.5), and Virginia (-11).
August 5 (-3.8): Michigan (-8), Real Clear (-3.5), and LA Times (0.1).
August 4 (-7.7): Florida (-5), Michigan (-6), Real Clear (-7.5), LA Times (-0.1), New Hampshire (-15), and Pennsylvania (-12.5).
With Trump starting his TV ads on Friday for the first time, it will be interesting to see if he continues to improve on his -2 from today, or if that was just a one day blip and he drops back several points to where he was in polls earlier in the week.
Remember the polls are a few days behind because it takes a few days to accumulate the data, so the apparently good week for Trump could be reflected in future polls.