Heading into the final week of the 2016 presidential campaign, polls show Republican Donald Trump will need to climb several points to overtake Democrat Hillary Clinton.
But recent revelations may give the billionaire businessman an opening.
Clinton finished the week on a down note when her email troubles re-entered the news. The FBI said Friday it would take another look at emails recently discovered during an investigation into sexting by Anthony Weiner, the estranged husband of longtime Clinton aide Huma Abedin. Last week, the Obama Administration also announced a large jump in premiums on the “Obamacare” health exchanges.
On the campaign trail, Trump continues to claim the election will be rigged against him, a claim widely disputed by state election officials. He also says polls are underestimating his support, even as one poll last week ranked South Carolina as a “toss up.”
Clinton lead slipping
After Friday’s news broke, Clinton’s lead slipped in Real Clear Politics’ national average from 5.2 percentage points on Friday to 2.9 points by Monday morning. The same slippage can be when third-party candidates are included, where Clinton’s lead fell to 2.4 points.
Polls have varied widely. An Associated Press poll conducted between Oct. 20 and 24 gave Clinton a national lead of 13 points, 54 percent to Trump’s 41 percent. Meanwhile, the LA Times/USC tracking poll and a Gravis poll give Trump a tie in their surveys.
At the same time, Clinton’s Electoral College lead moved up slightly over the weekend in Real Clear’s projections. The site moved Minnesota from “toss up” to Clinton’s column last week, while Colorado moved in the opposite direction and Pennsylvania wobbled from “leans Clinton” to toss up and back again in the span of a few days.
That leaves Clinton with 263 relatively safe electoral votes to Trump’s 164. Trump’s safe total dropped to 126 last week, the lowest since Real Clear began making projections in March because of his newfound vulnerability in Texas, which was briefly ranked as a toss-up state.
Clinton’s lead also declined in the “no toss-up” map, dropping from 333 electoral votes to 305 when Real Clear flipped Florida from Clinton to Trump, whose stock rose to 234 votes.
81% change of winning? Not so fast
FiveThirtyEight said late Friday that it gave Clinton an 81.2 percent chance of victory, projecting a win with 326 electoral votes, odds that declined only slightly to 78.8 percent over the turbulent weekend. The site’s prognosticators now give Trump a 53 percent chance of winning Ohio, a 52.7 percent chance of carrying Iowa and a 54 percent chance of victory in Arizona.
The more conservative “polls-plus” model drops Clinton further to 76.9 percent, without changing the electoral math.
The site’s Nate Silver suggests the race still could still tighten as partisan voters line up behind their party’s candidate in the final week of campaigning.
“Trump’s share of the vote has increased, as he’s picked up undecided and third-party voters, probably as the result of Republicans’ returning home after a disastrous series of weeks for Trump this month,” Silver says. “Clinton, however, is at least holding steady and probably also improving her own numbers somewhat.”
Elsewhere on the internet, Clinton’s chances haven’t declined greatly. The Huffington Post’s aggregate polling puts Clinton ahead of Trump, 48 percent to 41 percent, and still gives the Democrat a 98 percent chance to win, upping her Electoral College total from at least 302 votes to 317. The New York Times’ Upshot gives the Democrat a 90 percent chance of victory.
But even with a seemingly lopsided advantage for Clinton, Silver warns against writing off Trump’s chances in this race.
“A 16 percent chance of a Trump presidency isn’t nothing – as we’ve pointed out before, it’s about the same as the chances of losing a ‘game’ of Russian roulette.”
And, then, came Friday
Clinton’s odds of winning haven’t changed in the Crystal Ball put out by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.
There, Larry Sabato predicts “Clinton is no worse than 50-50 to carry each of the outer ring states,” i.e., the frontlines of the battleground in Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. As long as Clinton holds most of those states and doesn’t slip up in the “inner ring” states, she wins, Sabato says.
“This is why Clinton is such a heavy favorite to win the presidency, and our ratings changes this week make her an even slightly bigger favorite.”
The Crystal Ball’s map gave Clinton 352 electoral votes, with likely wins in Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio. The only toss-up states in its map are Iowa, Utah and one congressional district in Maine.
But that was before Friday.