Introduction – How JMC Analytics and Polling calls a state
(1) Safe Democratic/Clinton or safe Republican/Trump (dark blue/red) – If no polls have been conducted within the last 14 days for that state, a 2012 Obama (or Romney) percentage of 60% or above gets this rating. If polls have been conducted, a Clinton (or Trump) average of 50% or more gets this classification;
(2) Lean Democratic/Clinton or lean Republican/Trump (light blue/red) – If no polls have been conducted within the last 14 days for that state, a 2012 Clinton (or Trump) percentage between 53-59% gets this rating. If polls have been conducted, an Obama (or Trump) average percentage of 49% or less with a lead of 3 or more points will get this classification;
(3) Tossup (yellow) – If there was polling done, a candidate leads by less than 3 points or the 2012 election results had the winning candidate (Obama or Romney) receiving 52% or less;
Presidential Scorecard as of June 26
2012 Election: Barack Obama – 332, Mitt Romney 206
6/26/2016: Hillary Clinton – 253, Donald Trump 191, Undecided 94 (moved Florida to “Leans Clinton” since last week’s scorecard)
Depending on your point of view, last week was either a continuation of the conventional wisdom that Donald Trump’s campaign was self destructing, or there are hopeful signs for his campaign due to external events.
First, the bad news: not much has apparently changed in a positive direction for Trump. His controversial campaign manager (Corey Lewandowski) was abruptly fired a week ago, and Trump spent some time last week in Scotland (instead of on the campaign trail) promoting one of his golf courses. And three prominent “Establishment” Republicans (former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulsen, former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, and conservative pundit George Will) either broke party ranks to endorse Hillary Clinton, or they changed their party registration.
From a polling perspective, little has changed: Hillary Clinton’s (national) 42-36% lead over Donald Trump a week ago is now 44-37%, even though it’s more accurate to follow the individual state polls when evaluating the contest. And according to publicly released polling in the battleground states (Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia), the race is still a tossup in those states, with the only “contradiction” being two recently released polls in Florida showing Clinton with a 44-39% lead over Trump, which is why we moved that state from “Tossup” to “leans Clinton.”
And yet, despite the fact that the Trump campaign has been in the “summer doldrums” for a month, the fundamentals of the national mood are favorable towards a candidate with his profile: voters remain very unhappy (by a 65-26% margin) with the direction of the country, and Congressional job at approval (at 76-14% negative) isn’t much better (President Obama’s job approval remained at 51-46% positive).
Furthermore, England’s narrow vote several days ago to exit the European Union (which was nicknamed “Brexit”) also shows that ordinary voters have a more pessimistic/insular view of the world than previously thought, and this sentiment is in direct opposition to the mentality of “Establishment” types. It is this sentiment that has the potential to propel the Donald Trump campaign.
However, for these events to translate into actual momentum for the Trump campaign (thus far, his problems have helped Libertarian Gary Johnson more than Hillary Clinton), he has to put his campaign on a positive track. Most crucial for him is to have a strong campaign manager who can build/manage the campaign infrastructure and mollify nervous GOP donors (who provide the monetary fuel for a campaign to run). Then Donald Trump has to establish affirmative reasons for people to vote for him.
The perception that he can capably run things will be tested by the way he handles the selection of his Vice-Presidential nominee, and by the overall tone of the upcoming Republican convention on July 18-21. If these events are handled well, that will give him a favorable impression with undecided voters (and nervous Republican partisans), while an unruly convention or a weak Vice Presidential selection may drive more voters/Republican insiders away.
And it’s not like the Clinton campaign is without its problems. Bernie Sanders is a visual representation of a constituency in the Democratic party that is unenthusiastic about her candidacy, And there are Democrats publicly nervous about her insufficient engagement in critical swing states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
In conclusion, while it’s never good for a candidate to be giving the impression of having a campaign in disarray, it’s better for these events to be occurring in June (and not in September/October).