Trump campaign in crisis, even before latest offensive remarks

With a month to go until election day, Hillary Clinton has further increased her lead since last week.

Clinton now leads in states worth 334 Electoral Votes (EVs), while Donald Trump leads in states worth 186 EVs, with Ohio (18 EVs) tied - see this week's Electoral College map from ElectoralVote.  The changes since last week are Arizona, which has flipped from a Trump to a Clinton lead, and Ohio, from a Trump lead to tied.

Clinton leads by five points or more in states worth 265 EVs (light and dark blue states), so she is just short of a majority (270) in these states alone.  Trump has five point or more leads in states worth 165 EVs (light and dark red states).  Last week, Clinton had leads of at least five points in states worth 236 EVs, and Trump had similar leads in states worth 165 EVs.  White states with a blue or red border are within 4%.

Maine and Georgia have not been polled since the first Presidential debate.  Maine is probably safer for Clinton now than it appears, and Georgia is probably close now.

The Huffington Post Pollster national aggregate has Clinton leading with 44.2%, followed by Trump at 38.9%, Libertarian Gary Johnson at 7.4%, 6.3% undecided and 3.2% for Others including Green Jill Stein.  Last week, Clinton led by 42.9-39.4. 

Pollster charts give Trump a 59% unfavourable, 38% favourable rating (57-37 last week), Clinton a 54% unfavourable, 43% favourable rating (55-42 last week) (and President Barack Obama a steady 51% approve, 47% disapprove job performance rating).

Polling this week reflects the effect of last week’s revelation that Trump had taken a $916 million loss in 1995, and had then probably been able to avoid tax for 18 years.

Polls have not yet been taken since Friday’s new revelation when the Washington Post released audio of Trump from 2005.  Taken prior to Trump’s appearance on the set of a TV show, the audio shows him making extremely vulgar and sexist remarks, including that he had groped women without consent.  This audio is very likely to further damage Trump with women, and many men.

Since the audio’s release, many senior Republicans have condemned Trump, and some have withdrawn their endorsements.  Many Republicans would like Trump to quit his Presidential campaign, but Trump is very unlikely to heed their advice.  Ballot papers have been printed, and early voting has begun, so Trump’s name will still appear at the top of the ballot paper even if he resigns.

The second Presidential debate will be held today at 12 noon Australian Eastern Daylight Time (AEDT).  This debate is a Town Hall format, with candidates taking questions from undecided voters.  Clinton’s knowledge of the issues should assist her in coping with any unexpected questions.  Trump prefers to speak before large crowds of his core supporters, and has virtually no experience with a Town Hall format.

Trump has threatened to pressure Clinton over her husband’s sexual infidelities.  While Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky while President was improper, there is no evidence of Bill Clinton being systematically misogynist in the way that Trump apparently is.  If Trump attacks Hillary Clinton over her husband’s affairs during the debate, he could further damage his image in the minds of undecided voters.

The final Presidential debate will be held on Thursday 20 October at 12 noon AEDT, and will be in the same format as the first debate; candidates will stand at lecterns and be questioned by a moderator.

Dangers for Trump

Three weeks ago, I wrote about two dangers for Clinton: apathy among young people, and possible strong turnout among non-university educated whites.  However, there are also dangers for Trump that could enable Clinton to perform better than current polls indicate.

Trump’s biggest danger is that late deciders will break decisively to Clinton.  Most people either love Trump or hate him, but favourability ratings show that there are many more people who despise Trump than love him.  Although Clinton is also unpopular, people who dislike both candidates may be more likely to prefer Clinton as the lesser of two evils.

Exit polls during the Republican primaries show that Trump had a big problem with voters who decided in the last week before the election.  In all states where an exit poll was conducted except Texas, Trump underperformed his election result with late deciders, often by over 10%.  Trump won most primaries because of his strong performance among those who decided prior to the last week.

In a general election, relatively few voters decide in the last week, but many will decide in the final month.  Clinton is already leading, and if primary patterns are repeated, she will win easily.  However, she will not want any controversies about her to re-enter the media.

Another danger for Trump is Hispanic turnout.  Trump has said many things that have greatly offended Hispanics, including calling Mexican illegal immigrants “rapists and murderers” when he announced his campaign.  According to a poll of Hispanics only, they currently favour Clinton 83-11 without third party options.  

In previous elections, Hispanic turnout has been lower than for whites and blacks.  If Hispanic turnout greatly increases, Clinton could over perform her polling in Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.  According to US polling analyst Nate Silver, during the Democratic primaries, Clinton did better relative to polls in large diverse states.

Silver also says that Trump tended to under perform his polls in the Republican primaries, indicating that there are few “shy Trump” voters.  Clinton may benefit from a silent anti-Trump majority.

Motivating people to vote is important to the outcome in a system where voting is not compulsory and Clinton has more than three times the number of field offices than Trump.  It is unclear how much this will benefit Clinton, but she should get some advantage from her superior organisation.


Dr Adrian Beaumont

Election Watch's polls analyst


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