Trump focuses on four key states

Trump focuses on four key states
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE’s campaign is narrowing its focus to four swing states as the Republican nominee’s path to the White House continues to constrict. 

Sweeping Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania appear to be Trump's best chance at winning 270 electoral votes, experts and Republicans concur. 

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The map continues to tighten for Trump as he slips in the polls, most of which haven’t even taken into account recent allegations of sexual misconduct. 

“We are in the unenviable position of having to draw the inside straight and win all of those swing states,” said Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges. 

Falling short, or losing once-Republican strongholds of Utah or Arizona, would force Trump to string together a handful of other swing states to make up ground. 

Here’s the look at where Trump stands in the states on his tenuous path to victory.  

Ohio 

The reliable Republican bellwether will be just as vital in 2016 as it has been for Republicans in any other year. 

By Friday, the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average of state polls puts it at an effective toss-up, with Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders campaign reports raising M in less than a day The Memo: Bernie Sanders’s WH launch sharpens ‘socialist’ question Roger Stone invokes gag order in new fundraiser MORE up just 1.6 percentage points. 

While Trump has made inroads with rural voters thanks to his tough-on-trade message, he’s far behind incumbent Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanTexas senator introduces bill to produce coin honoring Bushes GOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats Steel lobby's PR blitz can't paper over damaging effects of tariffs MORE (R), who is running away in his reelection by a safe double-digit margin. 

Borges admitted he’s had a “couple of uncomfortable conversations” with Trump recently to urge him to stick to the script and not alienate Portman voters by attacking him as part the GOP establishment that has drawn Trump’s ire.  

“If he allows us to execute our strategy and sticks to a message that will work here, we will deliver Ohio,” he said. 

“Unfortunately, we have a situation where if we have our message stomped all over, it makes executing some of those things difficult.” 

Borges argued that the party and Trump have made strong efforts to shore up the GOP vote — with Trump as a boon for new registrants and the success by the party as a whole to bring on 1 million more registered Republican voters than in 2012. And he added that strong GOP role models in the state like Portman could help protect the party’s brand from Clinton attacks. 

But he admitted that while Ohio may not be a necessity for Democrats, it’s almost certainly required for the GOP.

Pennsylvania 

As of now, the Keystone State is the steepest climb for Republicans of the four must-wins. Clinton sits with an 8.4-point lead in the RCP average as of Friday, and Trump hasn’t led in a major poll for months. 

And Democrats have held the state in every presidential election since 1988, despite numerous attempted incursions by Republicans. 

Borges noted that GOP presidential tickets have long targeted the state but that it turns into “fool's gold.” 

“I wonder if the dynamic is truly that much different this time,” he said. 

Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst with the University of Virginia, pointed to a recent Bloomberg poll that showed Trump down by a margin of 28 points in the four suburban Philadelphia counties. GOP nominee Mitt Romney drew a much closer margin in 2012, losing those counties by about 9 points in 2012, and still lost the state. 

With Clinton expected to clean up in Philadelphia and Trump looking better in the rural part of the state, those suburban counties are more important than ever. 

“If he’s losing votes in the Philly suburbs, who cares how many votes he’s winning over in exurban Pittsburgh or the western part of the state?” 

Florida

Trump faces a simple question in Florida: What will the Hispanic vote look like? Trump has performed substantially better with English-dominant Hispanics, but he has struggled with the demographic at large as community leaders hammer him over his controversial comments and immigration platform.  

While Trump vanquished home-state Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioIvanka must recalibrate her paid family leave plan to make it tenable The United States needs a career ambassador in Honduras Rubio in Colombia to push for delivery of humanitarian aid to Venezuela MORE during the Republican presidential primaries, it may be Rubio who has the last laugh. The senator, who is of Cuban descent, is running substantially ahead of the top of the ticket for reelection, performing better with the Hispanic bloc.

And Democrats point to new numbers from a Politico Florida report that show their party submitted more than eight times as many voter registration forms as Republicans in the state as proof of their momentum. 

But with Trump’s most controversial comments about Hispanics knocked far from the front page, he’s still effectively tied in the state. The RCP average puts him behind Clinton by just 3 points. 

Elderly voters, a demographic more likely to vote, have trended for Trump. So if Trump wins, he’ll do so on the backs of both the state’s elderly and white voters. 

North Carolina

Trump brought his show to North Carolina for two events on Friday, underscoring the campaign’s push to play defense in what’s typically a red state. Clinton is up just 3 points in the RCP average, meaning most of the recent polls fall within the margin of error. 

While Clinton pulled ahead by the beginning of October, the two have traded leads since September. 

John Davis, a longtime nonpartisan analyst in the state, told The Hill it is a “perfectly balanced swing state."  

There are reasons for Democrats to be motivated — about half of the 6.6 million voting residents are native North Carolinians, with many settling from the more liberal parts of the country. And 490,000 more women voted in 2012 than men. 

But the GOP nominee has enthusiasm on his side, Davis said. He noted that the black voters who helped President Obama win in 2008 don’t appear as motivated now that Clinton is at the top of the ticket. 

And while the state may be trending toward a Democratic advantage, Davis said the motivated and disaffected Trump supporters could deliver the state to their candidate, comparing it to the 30-year career of controversial former Sen. Jesse Helms (R), who opposed the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. 

And some of Trump’s support is likely to come from the more urban technological and educational centers of the state, such as the Research Triangle, Davis said, even if that isn’t outwardly indicated.   

“You cannot admit in the Triangle that you are for Donald Trump, just as you could not admit you were for Jesse Helms," he said.

Updated on Oct. 17