A slew of new state polls are strengthening one of the biggest hopes for Donald Trump supporters — that his singular appeal as a candidate will reshuffle the electoral map for 2016.
The national contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton is a toss-up, but Trump is surprisingly competitive in a host of states that Democrats have long taken for granted.
A new poll of deep-blue Oregon finds Trump leading Hillary Clinton by 2 points, 44-42. A poll earlier in May found Clinton with an 11 point lead over Trump, but that same poll showed Clinton with a double-digit lead over Sanders for that state’s primary. She lost to Sanders by 12 points. Oregon hasn’t voted Republican in a Presidential contest since 1984, although George W. Bush came close to winning the state twice.
Both Clinton and Trump have strong support within their own parties in Oregon, but Trump has a 2-1 advantage among independents. Clinton’s nine-point edge with women is countered by Trump’s 13-point edge among men.
Democrats face two potential headwinds in Oregon. A billion dollar corporate tax hike pushed by the state’s Democrats is polling very poorly. State Democrats are also recovering from last year’s resignation of Democrat Governor John Kitzhaber, who was forced out of office after facing multiple allegations of corruption.
A Monmouth University poll of New Jersey finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by just four points in the deep-blue state. New Jersey hasn’t voted Republican since 1988 and hasn’t been competitive in any election after. Clinton’s lead in the RealClearPolitics average of polls in the state is just nine points, which is a very weak showing for any Democrat nominee. President Barack Obama won the state by 18 points in 2012.
Two recent polls in New Hampshire show a toss-up race between Clinton and Trump, with each drawing support in the low 40s. Both candidates are unpopular with voters, with just over 60 percent of voters having a negative view of the two candidates.
Bernie Sanders retains his popularity in the Granite State after posting a landslide win over Clinton in the Democrat primary. Clinton seems to be suffering more by the comparison with Sanders.
New Hampshire has been a safe Democrat state in the Obama era. George W. Bush won it very narrowly in 2000, but Republicans have struggled ever since. Trump has a 20-point edge over Clinton among men, matching her 20-point edge among women.
Perhaps most surprising in recent poll is the relatively competitive status of California in the general election. Clinton leads Trump by 12 points in the RealClearPolitics average of polls, but hasn’t yet broken 50 percent in support. Even this lead seems modest, however, considering that Obama carried the state twice by more than 23 points. Republicans haven’t been competitive in Presidential elections in the Golden State since the 1980s.
Bernie Sanders, by contrast, leads Trump by 17 points in California.
Other recent state polls have shown near toss-ups between Trump and Clinton in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Trump has a small edge in Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia, which have all trended Democrat in recent elections.
Obviously, the general election contest has only recently begun in earnest. While Trump has safely secured the Republican nomination, Hillary Clinton is still waging an exhausting battle against Bernie Sanders. Neither party has held its nomination convention and both candidates still have some work to solidify their party’s voters behind them.
That said, Trump’s strong showing in states that have only recently been foundations of the Democrats electoral map is surprising at this stage. Without robust general election campaigning, one would expect these states to reflect their traditional partisan biases in polling this early.
Time will tell soon whether Trump is really expanding the electoral map or, simply, whether Hillary Clinton is so deeply flawed as a general election candidate that she is putting Democrat states into play.
In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter why states like Pennsylvania, Oregon, New Jersey, New Hampshire and, even potentially, California are competitive. The fact that they currently are is enough to remind us that virtually anything is possible in this most unpredictable of election years.