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US Politics: The Great Debate

The Election Update – Trump Closes the Gap Leading Into the First Debate

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The 2016 election inches closer each day.

Any political junkie will tell you that polls are a snapshot of a moment in time. Even the very best and most accurate polls only inform you what people think the precise day or days the poll was taken. In the most extreme situations, a single event can alter the polls drastically, rendering the polls taken just before the event worthless. This article was written on the morning of September 26th knowing full well that this evening may very well be one of those events, with the first Presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump set to break records in viewership.

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Due to our newsletter deadlines, this article must be written no later than today. As such, you the reader will know more than I do now because you will know how the debate turned out. What I can do now though is tell you how this election is looking at this particular moment in time, as the candidates are set to square off for Debate #1.

The long and short of it is that Hillary’s post convention bounce is long gone; Donald Trump has mostly closed the gap thanks to a particularly bad month for Hillary Clinton, especially following her pneumonia episode. While Clinton remains the favorite to win, she is a much more shaky favorite than she was a month ago. The RealClearPolitics average of all recent major national polls now shows Hillary leading by 2.2%.

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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off in the first of several debates on September 26, 2016.

Current National Polls

While this is actually a bigger lead than Obama had in the polls against Romney leading into election day (Obama was up by about 1% but won the popular vote by 4%), few expected this year’s election to be this close a month ago.

Source http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/general_election_trump_vs_clinton-5491.html)

The race is perhaps even closer in the electoral college. Below, I have inserted a map I constructed on 270towin.com that shows the status of the election on a state-by-state basis. The darker the shade of red or blue, the more certain it is Trump or Hillary will win a given state. The light blue and light pink states are thus the slimmest leads for each respective candidate, and the three gray states (Colorado, North Carolina, and Florida) are the purest tossups right now. 

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Hillary Clinton remains the slim favorite because if she wins ANY of the three current tossup states, she’d win the election. However, this makes some big assumptions. If Trump continues to gather steam, it is entirely possible that states like Pennsylvania or Wisconsin could go from their current very slight Democratic leans and also become tossup states, creating more pathways to a Trump victory. Ohio and Iowa, previously swing states, now seem to be leaning towards Trump, as is Nevada, albeit to a lesser degree than the other two, but any of those could also begin to swing back to Clinton if she does very well at the debate tonight. All in all, Clinton is in a much more precarious spot than she was a month ago.

Polls can only tell us so much, especially in close races. They can also be wrong – look no further than the Brexit polling in the UK earlier this year. At this moment in time based on current polls, Hillary Clinton is most likely to be the next President of the United States. Tonight’s debate may determine if that is still the case tomorrow.