How Big Is Clinton’s Lead?

We’re now at the point in this election where the two big questions are, (1) how big is Clinton’s lead, and (2) will Democrats regain control of Congress? On the first question, Josh Marshall published two charts that tell us a lot about how this presidential race is unfolding. First, here is the trajectory of polling from the 2012 race:

You’ll notice that their final aggregate of polls had the race at 48.8 to 48.1 – a 0.7 point difference. The actual results were 51.1% for Obama and 47.2 for Romney – a 3.9% victory in the popular vote for Obama.

Now take a look at how things are playing out in 2016.

Just imagine what happens if the polling averages are once again off by about 3%. You get a Clinton lead of about 10-11%.

This race isn’t nearly as close as 2012 and – as we’ve pointed out before – Trump has never led the race at any point. But there is something else this chart demonstrates. When pundits report that this has been a remarkably stable race, it is true that Trump has always captured about 42% of the vote. But look at what is happening to Clinton’s numbers recently. There is a clear upswing that puts her average very close to 50%. Mark Blumenthal from SurveyMonkey provides one piece of information to explain that:

Blumenthal elaborates at the link he provided.

While the national story is more about stability over the fall campaign than big dramatic shifts, one important trend is nonetheless modest but real: Hillary Clinton has been gradually consolidating her vote among Democrats, while Trump continues to bleed support among Republicans to Clinton and the third party candidates.

Consider Democrats…Since early September, Clinton’s support among Democrats has increased from 84 to 88 percent. Over the same period, support for Gary Johnson among Democrats declined from 7 to 4 percent…

Over the same period, support for Trump among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents has been essentially flat, varying between 84 and 82 percent.

Trump isn’t exactly “bleeding support” from Republicans – he has remained fairly steady. But Clinton is definitely gaining ground among Democrats. To put that in perspective, in the 2012 presidential race, 92% of Democrats voted for Obama and 93% of Republicans voted for Romney. So Clinton is approaching Obama’s numbers and Trump is running a full 10 points behind Romney’s.

Given that Trump has decided to attack the Republican Party as it becomes increasingly clear that he is losing, I certainly don’t expect his numbers to improve much among GOP voters. And as we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks, college educated white women – who typically vote Republican – have been repulsed by his campaign, particularly his sexism.

Meanwhile, Clinton continues to consolidate her base of voters while reaching out to disaffected Republicans – with small leads in traditionally red states like North Carolina and Arizona. On the question Blumenthal raised about whether the “real” Clinton-Trump margin is +12, +4, or something in between, I expect that the ultimate answer on election night will be closer to the larger number.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.