Trump leads latest poll but Clinton retains the electoral college edge
There was good news for Donald Trump in the latest CNN poll. The national survey places him 2 points ahead of Hillary Clinton, who has made few public appearances in recent weeks while barnstorming the fundraising circuit.
It was the Republican nominee's first lead in a major poll since his party convention in July, and it reflects a tightening in the race. Clinton's lead over Trump fell to 3.3pc in the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, from 6.3 points on August 27.
A FiveThirtyEight forecast boosted Trump's odds of victory in November to one-in-three.
The shift appears to be primarily driven by Trump unifying GOP voters. The CNN survey found him ahead by 88pc to 3pc among Republicans, and by 48pc to 28pc among independents. Clinton led 90pc to 2pc among Democrats.
Popular vote aside, Clinton retains a significant edge in the electoral college, thanks to the Democratic Party's structural advantages and the fact that Trump's unfavourable ratings are higher than hers.
She has numerous viable paths to victory while Trump needs to run the table in the most competitive states.
Still, Clinton cannot afford to be complacent. As polling analyst Nate Silver noted in a blog post, the degree of uncertainty in the race is high due to large number of undecided and third-party voters in recent surveys. And state polls can catch up to national polls.
"National polls tend to be of higher quality and the states are not divorced from the national polls," said Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and a polling analyst for Bloomberg Politics. "At the end of the day this race remains Hillary Clinton's to lose. That said, she may be capable of that."
For now, at least, Trump has a steep hill to climb.
Of the 14 most competitive states, the latest polling averages tracked by RealClearPolitics find him leading only in Iowa and the Republican-leaning states of Arizona, Georgia and Missouri (each by 3 or fewer points). Clinton is up by 5 points or less in Florida, Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and North Carolina, with larger cushions in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and New Hampshire.
"We always expected things would tighten but we are strategically positioned in the battleground states bolstered by strong grassroots operations and the Trump campaign is ill-prepared much like their candidate," Clinton campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson said.
An analysis by NBC News found that based on the latest polls, there are enough "likely" or "lean" Democratic states to win Clinton 272 electoral votes and the presidency, even if Trump wins each of the six most competitive states.
"The race will tighten as we approach November 8th, but Hillary Clinton continues to be in a commanding position and the electoral college math tells us she will remain in the lead," said Neil Levesque, the executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics and Political Library at Saint Anselm College.
GOP strategist Mark Stephenson said his Red Oak Strategic's presidential tracking poll shows the race tightening - Clinton is down three points to 45pc with likely voters nationally, and Trump climbed three points to 42pc.
"Most of the movement came from independents," said Stephenson, who was head of analytics for Scott Walker's presidential campaign and is unaffiliated in the 2016 contest. In the September 1-2 poll, Trump gained 2pc and Clinton lost 5pc among independents since the last survey, released August 23, he said.
Republican strategist Brad Todd said Clinton's rising unpopularity is preventing her from locking up the race.