Politics & Government

Good debate gives Clinton more breathing room in the polls

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.

Did a bad debate performance by Donald Trump put Hillary Clinton back on course?

Democrat Clinton was the consensus winner of Monday’s first presidential debate, and that is reflected in the polls conducted in the week since.

Republican Trump was criticized for seeming unprepared for the big night. He also apparently had a cold. But that didn’t stop him from claiming victory on the strength of unscientific internet polls, and some voters shared his assessment.

It probably didn’t help that many of the headlines in the aftermath of the debate focused on Trump’s feud with a former Miss Universe.

FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton a 66.7 percent chance of victory in its projections – a 10-point jump from a week ago, on the eve of the debate – and flips Florida and Nevada to Clinton, giving her 307 electoral votes, 32 more than the 270 needed to win election.

Clinton has a 63.8 percent chance of winning the same map in FiveThirtyEight’s polls-plus model (a change that costs Clinton Florida). However, in the aftermath of the debate, she has a 72.8 percent chance of winning in its nowcast (a swing that costs Trump North Carolina).

“(T)he data that we have so far suggests that Hillary Clinton has gained ground as a result of Monday night’s debate,” writes statistician Nate Silver. “It’s mostly a question of how much her position has improved.”

Polls show Clinton with a lead of between 1 and 5 points in the days since the debate. That is consistent with a swing to Clinton that should pad her national lead from previous narrow margins and give her some breathing room in the crucial swing states, Silver writes.

Real Clear Politics showed a slight bounce toward Clinton after the debate, as she grew her lead in the national polling average to 2.5 percentage points. Her lead in polls that include third-party candidates is a slightly lower now 2.3 points. For a while on Friday, both averages gave Clinton a 2.9-point lead, the first time in months that the Democrat’s lead in a four-way poll has been equal to her two-way lead.

Real Clear’s Electoral College projections up Clinton’s total to 201 votes, after the site moved Virginia – where Clinton has a 7-point lead in the polling average – from “toss up” to “leans Clinton.” Real Clear previously moved Minnesota to its “toss up” column, now the 14th state to be placed in that category. Trump remains at 165 in the Electoral College.

Removing the toss-ups, Real Clear has padded Clinton’s lead by moving Florida into her column. But it also has moved Colorado to Trump, leaving the Democrat with a lead of 292 to 246 once all the states are decided. Last week, Clinton’s lead was just 272-266.

Clinton has a narrow 2-point lead in the site’s polling average for Florida, while Trump has a lead in Colorado of just one-half point.