Clinton takes command of swing-state map

Post-debate polls show the Democratic nominee ahead in 7 of 11 battlegrounds.

hrc-smilingHillary Clinton has done more than just stifle Donald Trump’s momentum in the presidential race. She’s also established a far clearer path to winning an Electoral College majority than Trump, according to the latest battleground-state polls.

In the aftermath of the first debate, Clinton has opened up a lead in vote-rich Florida, according to two polls conducted there. The Democratic former secretary of state is also ahead in post-debate polls in Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia. And while her lead in some of those states is more precarious than in others, current polls indicate Clinton would win upwards of 300 electoral votes if the election were held today.

Three national polls conducted since the Sept. 26 debate — a Fox News poll showing Clinton ahead by 3 points, a CNN/ORC International poll that gave Clinton a 5-point lead and a CBS News poll with Clinton up 6 points in a head-to-head matchup — confirm her improved standing.

Add it all up and the national and state-level polling suggests Clinton, at least temporarily, has halted the tightening of the polls over the past six weeks — and likely ticked up slightly after outperforming Trump at last week’s debate.

POLITICO’s Battleground States polling average now shows Clinton ahead in nine of the 11 states that make up the project, while Trump remains ahead in Iowa and Ohio — including a post-debate Quinnipiac University poll in Ohio that showed the GOP nominee ahead by 5 points.

Counting the states where her lead in the polling average is 3 points or greater — and adding them to the states President Barack Obama won in 2012 (plus the District of Columbia) — Clinton would win 302 electoral votes to Trump’s 215. Only Nevada and North Carolina are currently within that 3-point margin.

While the average includes polls conducted both before and after the debate, it’s indisputable that the short-term trend favors Clinton.

In Florida, post-debate surveys from Mason-Dixon (showing Clinton ahead by 4 points) and Quinnipiac (Clinton up by 5 points) now have Clinton ahead in the average by 3.2 percentage points overall.

The national polls are split on the extent of Clinton’s post-debate bounce: Last week’s Fox News poll showed only a net increase of 2 points for Clinton, while the CNN/ORC poll on Monday showed a net Clinton bump of 7 points, and Clinton improved by 4 points in the CBS News poll.

The Fox News poll was conducted last Tuesday through Thursday, while the CNN/ORC and CBS News polls were conducted last Wednesday through Sunday. While all were conducted after the debate, it’s possible the CNN/ORC and CBS News polls are reflecting more of the fallout from the debate, including Trump’s continued litigation of the allegations made against him by former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, and the disclosure this weekend by The New York Times of portions of Trump’s 1995 state tax returns.

A Morning Consult poll, conducted over the Internet for POLITICO Playbook, appears to corroborate this, showing Clinton with a slightly larger lead now than in the immediate post-debate period. Clinton led by 7 points in the new poll, conducted last Friday through Sunday. That’s up from a 4-point Clinton lead immediately after the debate, and a pre-debate advantage for Clinton of just 2 points.

Polls can be a lagging indicator, but the more recent trend favors Clinton. A Clinton victory in Florida would shut off all other paths to a Trump Electoral College victory. And even if Trump wins Florida — and the toss-up states of Nevada or North Carolina — he can’t win the White House without flipping another state where Clinton currently leads in post-debate polling: Pennsylvania, Colorado or Michigan.


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