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Hours away from first presidential debate, race is neck-and-neck

by | Sep 26, 2016

By Dave Andrusko

enthusiamtrumpclintongraphWell, it’s almost show time. There are predictions that tonight’s first head-to-head between pro-life Donald Trump and pro-abortion Hillary Clinton could be the most watched presidential debate ever–in the range of 100 million viewers.

Let’s catch up on the race a few hours before the 9:00 tipoff time.

First, no matter how you slice it–whether you are in Trump’s camp, Hillary’s, or still undecided–Mr. Trump has eliminated the entire deficit he has faced since the end of the Democratic National Convention in July. The contest is, not to coin a phrase, a dead heat.

As Nate Silver wrote:

It’s not where it seemed the race would stand a month ago, when Mrs. Clinton led national polls by around eight percentage points. Her large advantage has dwindled. Today, she is ahead by around two percentage points in high-quality national surveys of likely voters, and in the key states she needs to win the Electoral College.

In fact, in the most recent round of polling from Morning Consult, Trump is ahead by one point–39% to 38%–in a four way race that includes Libertarian Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Green.

Bloomberg’s poll has Trump ahead 43% to 41% among Likely Voters in a four-way race.

So why, beyond eliminating a double-digit deficit, are the latest numbers so encouraging for Trump?

For one thing, more and more Republicans are “coming home.” No matter how many disaffected Democrats came his way, or how many non-voters who lean Republican pull the lever November 8, Trump needs the support of at least as many Republicans as Mrs. Clinton does Democrats.

“The difference is Republican voters shifting away from the third-party candidate,” according to Ed Morrissey. The Post’s poll found, “Two weeks ago, 22 percent of Republicans who didn’t back Trump in the primaries were going to vote for Johnson. Now it’s only 8 percent.”

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To illustrate that on a state (as opposed to a national) basis, in Pennsylvania, a Muhlenberg College survey finds Clinton’s eight point margin (40% to 32%) down to two (40% to 38%).

This afternoon, I read a CNN poll which showed Trump down by just one point in Pennsylvania, and up one point in Colorado.

According to Laura Olson of the Morning Call

“Partisans coming home to their nominee is an expected part of any campaign as you get into the closing days,” said Chris Nicholas, a GOP consultant based in Harrisburg. “What’s notable here is the very large shift and we’re not close to the final days.”

A demographic analysis showed a double-digit jump in Trump’s support among Republicans after Trump underperformed with that group previously. This week, 85 percent of likely GOP voters said they’d choose him over Clinton, compared with 71 percent in the prior survey.

While Johnson had appeared to peel away some Republicans from Trump, that effect diminished this week, Chris Borick, [director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion] said. Johnson fell by 6 points in the four-way matchup, while Trump gained by the same figure.

What else? According to the Washington Post

Another potentially worrying sign for Clinton is that she is getting a smaller share of voters who supported Obama in 2012 than Trump is getting among those who backed Romney.

Likewise on enthusiasm. As the graphic from the Washington Post replicated below illustrates, among their respective supporters who say they are somewhat or very enthusiastic, Trump leads 85% to 77%, and 8 points among those who describe themselves as very enthusiastic (47% to 39%).

There’s much more that could be said. We’ll talk about it–and of course what happens in tonight’s 9:00 EST debate–tomorrow.

Categories: Politics