The Buzz

Clinton’s lead over Trump narrows, but electoral map hardens

Now that both party conventions are behind us, The State 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.

The polling trends last week could give comfort to both sides in the presidential race.

On the one hand, Republican Donald Trump is narrowing Democrat Hillary Clinton’s lead in the polls and shortening her odds of winning the general election.

At the same time, however, Clinton’s state-by-state lead in the electoral map seems to be settling into something more comfortable.

After weeks in which Trump’s campaign was rocked by gaffes, the real estate mogul tried to get his general election push back on track last week. He announced a shake-up in his top campaign staff, saying goodbye to campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who resigned Friday. In between, Trump made a rare admission of “regret” for some of his recent controversial comments.

While Clinton seemed content to let Trump act as his own worst enemy, the Democrat also was struck by the latest criticism over her tenure at the State Department, namely the lack of ethics training for herself and her staff. She also finished the week promising change at the controversial Clinton Foundation.

Clinton trending down...

The polling average at Real Clear Politics continues to tighten with Clinton leading Trump nationally by 5.5 percentage points, down from 7 percent two weeks earlier. An LA Times/USC poll out Sunday even gave Trump a slight lead nationwide, 45 to 44.

Clinton’s lead gets even smaller when you factor in the third-party effect. The Democrat goes even lower — to 4.5 points — when Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein are included in the polling.

...But still on course for a majority

At the same time, Clinton has solidified her lead in the electoral count.

Real Clear Politics has moved Michigan – where the Democrat’s lead matches her national average – into the “leans Clinton” column. With other post-convention gains, that gives Clinton a projected 272 electoral votes, enough to win outright before toss-up states are decided.

Michigan’s change doesn’t affect the Real Clear’s no toss-up map, however. The poll averaging site hasn’t changed its toss-up projections, showing Clinton taking 362 electoral votes to 176 for Trump, leaving the Republican nominee well short of the 270 needed to win.

FiveThirtyEight gives Clinton an 84.7 percent chance of winning the election, but has shifted Georgia back to Trump, giving Clinton 358 electoral votes in its projections.

On the other hand, the site’s polls-plus forecast – which factors in historical data – gives Clinton a tighter 74.7 percent chance of victory and also flips Arizona back to Trump.

SC just a shade pinker

Meanwhile, political scientist Larry Sabato with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics hasn’t changed the numbers on his electoral map, which still have Clinton at 348 votes.

Sabato refuses to put either Arizona or Georgia in Clinton’s column, writing in his “Crystal Ball” that “there’s not enough evidence yet to justify doing so. The polling averages are basically tied in both, so we’ll keep watching.”

Sabato did make some changes to his projections last week.

South Carolina was moved from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican,” along with Kansas.

“(South Carolina) is a state with a high Democratic floor (but a low ceiling) because of a large black population and the Palmetto State’s racially polarized voting,” Sabato writes. “We certainly don’t expect either Kansas or South Carolina to vote Democratic. Still, we have noticed that many deep red states may be preparing to produce lower-than-usual pluralities for Trump.”

At the same time, the Crystal Ball flipped Nebraska’s 2nd District — worth a single electoral vote — to Democrat from leaning Republican, and solidified New Hampshire as “likely Democratic.”

Sabato’s map matches other projections in another way; his combinations of safe and likely Democratic states also push Clinton north of 270.

Trouble ahead?

A Clinton victory could be hard to accept for some Trump supporters. Public Policy Polling last week found a majority of Texas Republicans ready to secede if Clinton returns to the White House.

▪ To check out McClatchy’s interactive national projection map and the latest polling, click here.

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Real Clear Politics national polling average:

(8/8): Clinton by 7 percent

(8/15): Clinton by 6.8 percent

(8/22): Clinton by 5.5 percent

Real Clear electoral votes:

(8/8): Clinton 246, Trump 154

(8/15): Clinton 256, Trump 154

(8/22): Clinton 272, Trump 154

Real Clear no toss up:

(8/8): Clinton 346, Trump 192

(8/15): Clinton 362, Trump 176

(8/22): Clinton 362, Trump 176

FiveThirtyEight Probability:

(8/8): 83.4 percent chance of a Clinton victory

(8/15): 89.2 percent chance of a Clinton victory

(8/22): 84.7 percent chance of a Clinton victory