President Trump has nearly halved his deficit in Pennsylvania and now trails in that state by only 3.8 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average. That means that he only trails by about 3.8 percentage points in the race for the White House.
Trump is closer in the polls today than he was four years ago at this same point.
If Trump has a late surge of 2 points in swing states, and he outperforms the polls by 2 points in the swing states, he will win the right to stay in the White House.
Start with Pennsylvania, since that’s the state most likely to become the tipping point. Trump trailed Biden by 7.3 points in the RealClearPolitics average on Oct. 12. Since then, Biden’s been below 50% in 3 out of 4 polls, and Trump has been at 45% or above in all three. For instance, look at the Reuters/Ipsos polls; compared to a week ago, Trump’s deficit has been reduced from 7 points to 4 points.
Then, there is a handful of swing states closer than Pennsylvania, where Trump is tied or trailing by less than 3.8 points. In Arizona, Biden’s up by 3.1 points. In North Carolina, Biden’s up by 2 points. In Iowa, Biden’s up by 1.2 points. In Florida, Biden’s up by 1 point. In Georgia, Biden’s up by less than 1 point. (We’ll return later to the amazing fact that Biden is leading in a poll of Georgia.)
If Trump were to outperform today’s polls by 4 points, he’d carry all those states. If he carries the states where he’s leading plus these states where he’s within 4 points (Georgia, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Arizona, and Pennsylvania), Trump wins with at least 278 electoral votes (he needs 270).
So, how likely is a 4-point outperformance of today’s polls? Again, those 4 points could come from a polling error or a late surge or a combination of both. Four years ago in Pennsylvania, Trump outperformed the final polls in Pennsylvania by 2.8 points. If that happened again this year, Trump would still fall a bit short, but he has time to make up the ground.
Four years ago today (that is, two weeks prior to Election Day), Trump trailed Hillary Clinton by 5.2 points in the Pennsylvania RealClearPolitics average. That means his climb that year was steeper (36% steeper, to be precise) greater than his needed climb this year.
Pollsters claim to have learned from their errors four years ago. If they have, then we might be looking at a Biden blowout of historic proportions — imagine Georgia and Texas and Ohio all going blue.
But we’d be foolish to write off Trump when he only needs to close a 4-point gap.