Politics & Government

Clinton goes into the debate with the lead, but can she keep it?

The State newspaper is taking a week-by-week look at the polling and Electoral College projections in the presidential race. Numbers will be updated each week until Election Day on Nov. 8.

Heading into Monday night’s potentially decisive presidential debate, Hillary Clinton seems to have at least stopped her slide in the polls.

But she remains in a tight race with Donald Trump, both in the polls and on the electoral map, and both could change depending on the candidates’ debate performances.

Republican Trump reportedly has been doing much less traditional debate prep that Democrat Clinton. In part, that is because the front-runner must be prepared for both the erratic businessman and the disciplined, on-point GOP nominee to show up Monday.

The spotlight also could fall on moderator Lester Holt, and whether he will do any live fact-checking of candidates’ claims. The Clinton campaign openly has encouraged Holt to do so, in hopes of undercutting some of Trump’s wilder statements.

One thing to keep in mind: Larry Sabato with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics shows an average 4-point swing in the polls in favor of one candidate or another after the first debate in the last 11 presidential races.

Now, before the candidates walk on stage, here’s where the race stands now.

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A ‘stretch’ to say she’s back?

A week after Clinton’s lead dropped to under a percentage point in the Real Clear Politics national polling average, Clinton has recovered somewhat, now leading by 2.3 percentage points nationwide. But different polls have reached wildly different results.

The latest McClatchy-Marist poll, released Friday, found Clinton had a 7-point lead – 6 points when the third-party candidates are included.

Last week, the LA Times/University of Southern California tracking poll also gave Trump a 4-point lead, and a Rasmussen poll had the Republican candidate up by 5.

“Some interested parties are pointing to individual polls as evidence of a Clinton rebound, but a closer look at all the data released over the past three days suggests that those people are stretching,” Harry Enten at FiveThirtyEight wrote Thursday.

Enten notes Clinton is near an all-time low in FiveThirtyEight’s projections – given a 57.8 percent chance of victory in its polls-only projection and a 57.1 percent chance using the polls-plus model. Those numbers have dropped since Clinton rebounded to a 60-plus percent chance of victory at the end of last week.

“Take a step back and look at all the polling released in the past few days: There were some good results for Clinton, but plenty of bad, too,” Enten said. “Trump is still doing better than he was last week. That doesn’t mean he’ll be doing better still next week, but there isn’t yet clear evidence of a Clinton rebound.”

No room for error on Clinton’s part

In the Real Clear average, Clinton’s lead shrank to 1.5 points when third parties are included, and her lead in Real Clear’s Electoral College projections shrank from 293 electoral votes a week ago to just 272 now – 2 more than the 270 votes needed to win.

The site moved Nevada and North Carolina – a combined 21 electoral votes – from Clinton’s column to Trump’s, and flipped Florida twice in the span of a week. The Sunshine State moved from Trump to Clinton on Tuesday, then back to Trump on Thursday.

Real Clear has even moved Maine from Clinton’s column into the toss-up category, and says the state’s 2nd congressional district, which awards its own electoral vote, now leans toward giving that vote to Trump.

Trump has lead consistently in Nevada and North Carolina for the past two weeks, but his Real Clear average in Florida is just 0.1 percent. And a Monmouth poll last week put Clinton ahead of Trump by 5 points in the state.

FiveThirtyEight’s projections also narrowed last week, moving Nevada into Trump’s column with a 51.2 percent chance of a GOP victory, taking Clinton down to 272 in the electoral college.

Who’s deplorable?

Clinton supporters can take some solace in a GfK-AP poll out last week that shows Trump still has higher unfavorables than the Democrat.

Sixty percent of registered voters tell the pollsters that Trump does not respect “ordinary Americans” versus 48 percent who say the same of Clinton. Trump is viewed unfavorably by 61 percent of registered voters overall and Clinton by 56 percent.

But nearly 3 in 4 do not view Trump as even somewhat civil or compassionate, and – two weeks after Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment – half say Trump is at least somewhat racist. Only 21 percent say the same of Clinton, while half say she is at least somewhat civil and 42 percent view her as compassionate.