Can Hillary win 50 percent of the popular vote?

Can Hillary win 50 percent of the popular vote?
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Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions Trump on Clinton's Sanders comments: 'She's the one that people don't like' Hillary Clinton tears open wound with her attack on Sanders MORE is aiming to win more than 50 percent of the popular vote, a result that would strengthen arguments she has a mandate to govern.

One prominent Clinton surrogate said getting the Democratic nominee above 50 percent is “very possible.” 

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“Trump has a ceiling, and he’s reached it,” the surrogate said of GOP nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRouhani says Iran will never seek nuclear weapons Trump downplays seriousness of injuries in Iran attack after US soldiers treated for concussions Trump says Bloomberg is 'wasting his money' on 2020 campaign MORE. “It’s all about turnout to get her above 50 [and] pouring on the money and spreading out the high-power surrogates.” 

Winning 50 percent had seemed like a difficult threshold in an election with third-party candidates winning as much as 10 percent support in polls. But Clinton allies and surrogates familiar with the internal workings of the campaign say Trump’s recent spiral on the heels of sexual misconduct allegations has given her a major opening to reach that benchmark.

A new batch of opinion polls released amid the controversy swirling around Trump’s treatment of women show Clinton nearing the 50 percent mark in a four-way race for the first time. 

Monmouth University’s latest survey, released Monday, shows Clinton winning support from 50 percent of likely voters in a race with Trump, Libertarian Party nominee Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonThe 'Green' new deal that Tom Perez needs to make The Trump strategy: Dare the Democrats to win Trump challenger: 'All bets are off' if I win New Hampshire primary MORE and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Just 38 percent backed the GOP nominee, while 5 percent supported Johnson and 2 percent sided with Stein. 

CBS News’s latest four-way poll showed Clinton at 47 percent, while the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll had her at 48 percent. 

While Clinton falls short in those two polls, another strategist close to the campaign said the former secretary of State stands a chance of climbing higher “because the bottom fell out” of Trump’s vote last week. 

Clinton is also seeking to roll up a huge Electoral College win over Trump.

The strategist and others in Clinton World say they believe they’ll keep the states President Obama won in 2012, totaling 332 electoral votes.

That would include wins in Iowa, where polls have repeatedly shown Clinton behind Trump, and in Ohio, where Trump has also been strong.

If Clinton carries the Obama 2012 states and also wins North Carolina, which Obama won in 2008, the campaign will reach 347. North Carolina, according to recent polls, seems more solid territory for Clinton than Iowa or Ohio.

Clinton would like to make a play for Arizona, Georgia and Utah. Recent polls have shown her with a lead in Arizona and Georgia, as well as a tight race in Utah, where independent candidate Evan McMullin is pulling support from Trump.

Trump’s lead has also narrowed in the Republican stronghold of Texas, where a University of Houston poll showed him up by just 3 points on Tuesday. 

Limiting Trump’s margins in red states could help Clinton reach 50 percent, as could shrinking support for Johnson and Stein. Pollsters believe the third-party vote will decline on Election Day. 

Mitch Stewart, who helped run Obama’s battleground state strategy in 2012, said the map expansion is proof the Clinton campaign is “on offense” and on target to match or top her predecessor.

Obama defeated Republican nominee John McCainJohn Sidney McCainMartha McSally fundraises off 'liberal hack' remark to CNN reporter Meghan McCain blasts NY Times: 'Everyone already knows how much you despise' conservative women GOP senator calls CNN reporter a 'liberal hack' when asked about Parnas materials MORE 53 percent to 46 percent in 2008, and he beat 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney by 4 percentage points, 51 percent to 47 percent.

Clinton campaign aides say their only goal right now is hitting the 270 electoral votes necessary to win and that they won’t do anything to sacrifice the battleground states.

At the same time, Clinton aides and surrogates say that driving up her margin of victory could make it next to impossible for Trump to claim that the election was rigged, something the celebrity businessman has repeatedly been doing in recent days.

“We’ve got to make sure that the margin he loses by is so big and so clear and so powerful and so unmistakable that when he stands up and says, ‘Poor me’ and ‘it was rigged against me,’ nobody will believe him,” Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineIran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner House war powers sponsor expects to take up Senate version of resolution Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' MORE (D-Va.), said at a rally in Florida last weekend. 

Clinton’s hopes of winning 50 percent of the vote are also hampered not only by the competition from third-party candidates but by her low favorability ratings, which are only somewhat better than Trump’s. 

Capturing at least 50 percent of the vote would boost the former first lady’s claim of a mandate, supporters say. 

“It would send a strong message that she was supported by not just Democrats but also Republicans,” one Democratic strategist said. 

But not everyone thinks running up the score and getting 50 percent is so important.

Patrick Murray, the director of the nonpartisan Monmouth University Polling Institute, said he doesn’t see Clinton achieving a true mandate no matter what her margin of victory is. 

“I don’t think it’s going to make it any easier for her to govern,” Murray said. “She is going to face an issue of legitimacy from a certain segment of the electorate that not even George W. Bush faced in 2000.”

When Obama won a huge election victory in 2008 and enjoyed large congressional majorities, he still faced opposition from Republicans. Only three Senate Republicans backed that year’s stimulus bill, for example.

“It looked like we had a mandate and getting stuff through Congress was still extremely difficult,” said Stewart.

“Legislatively it’s going to be a big challenge” for Clinton, he added.

A Democratic adviser familiar with the thinking of the White House and campaign said reaching the 50 percent threshold could help improve Clinton’s public image. 

“It is helpful because it helps erode this idea that she is so fiercely disliked, which will be helpful for her coming into the job,” the adviser said. 

But the adviser downplayed the idea that a larger margin of victory would improve a future Clinton administration’s relations with Republicans in Congress.

“I don’t think they’re going to say, ‘Oh she got 51, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt,’ ” the adviser said.

That’s one reason why Democrats are spending the final weeks of the campaign attacking congressional Republicans for sticking by Trump. They hope the attacks will bear fruit by helping the party win back the Senate — and perhaps even the House, though that is recognized as a much tougher lift.

Obama will campaign for Clinton and down-ballot Democrats in Florida on Thursday and in Nevada on Sunday.

“If she is able to come in with a Democratic Senate, that’s going to make a huge difference,” the adviser said of Clinton. “That’s where the president — you’ve seen him do a lot on this already and you’re going to see him do more.”