The polls are tightening. The electoral map is shifting. And while Donald Trump still faces a narrow path to the White House, analysts say the first-time, convention-defying Republican presidential candidate has a real shot four days from now.
The Republican nominee, tellingly, has gone from complaining about a “rigged” system to vowing victory once again.
The impact from the FBI’s decision to revisit the Hillary Clinton email probe may be modest, but the polls were tightening even before that twist. Both candidates are taking nothing for granted and have kept a packed schedule crisscrossing the battlegrounds in their final push. Trump spent his week in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and North Carolina; while Clinton campaigned in many of the same states – their respective surrogates fanning out to cover more ground.
The magic number on Election Night is 270 electoral votes. Here’s how each candidate could get there:
For Clinton, the path is much easier.
The latest Fox News Electoral Scorecard shows that if she wins all the states considered to be leaning or solidly Democrat, she wins the White House – with 283 electoral votes. She wouldn’t have to win any of the pure toss-ups, which right now are Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Utah and one Maine district. She could even lose a Democrat-leaning state like Colorado or Wisconsin.
Democratic strategist and Fox News contributor Joe Trippi said Clinton retains the “electoral advantage.”
“It’s going to be very tough for [Trump],” Trippi told Fox News.
David Goodfriend, former deputy staff secretary to President Bill Clinton, pointed to flexibility in the map for Clinton.
“Hillary can lose Florida and Ohio and still win the presidency. I like her odds on the electoral map,” he said.
Goodfriend predicted the FBI probe and WikiLeaks revelations of the past days would not hurt Clinton’s base, but rather drive independents and Republicans that “hate Trump” back home to vote Republican.
Arnon Mishkin, director of the Fox News Decision Team, characterized Clinton’s Election Day task this way:
“Hillary needs to make sure she is defending the states that we have leaning in her direction. She also needs to try to win the toss-up states – we’d argue Florida, Nevada and maybe even Arizona.”
For Trump, it’s trickier – but still possible.
The Fox News scorecard shows that if Trump wins the states leaning or solidly Republican, he’d have 192 electoral votes. If he also wins the toss-ups, he’d be 15 electoral votes short of 270.
One win in North Carolina, Michigan or Pennsylvania could get him to victory.
According to the Fox News Decision Team, Trump’s path to victory depends not only on holding down the red states and claiming the toss-ups, but executing a strategic steal from the Democratic column.
“The clearest opportunity I see for Donald Trump is either he wins both New Hampshire and North Carolina or takes just Pennsylvania,” said Mishkin. “Trump needs to win all toss-up states … all of which, really, are quite do-able.”
New Hampshire is one state that has been trending away from Clinton. It had been rated “lean Democrat” but the Fox News Decision Team updated that to “toss-up” on Thursday.
“Trump is looking much stronger than he was looking a week ago,” Mishkin said.
Trump nevertheless has trailed consistently in states like Pennsylvania, worth a significant 20 electoral votes. Trump surrogate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he thinks Trump’s votes in “Pennsylvania, West Virginia and the Rust Belt states are going to be significantly higher than anyone predicted.”
“I am convinced there is going to be a dramatic turn on Election Night,” he said.
But while Clinton, as Mishkin noted, will try to win Florida, many analysts say Trump absolutely must win the Sunshine State to have a chance.
“His pathway runs straight through Florida and that is it,” Goodfriend said.
A fundraising email sent from the Trump campaign Thursday night went into detail about how they could win. The email said that if they can lock down the battlegrounds, they’d need to win one of these states: Colorado, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, New Mexico or Minnesota.
All About Turnout
Voter enthusiasm and turnout is a factor, too. Clinton and President Obama both have stepped up their rhetoric on the stump, urging supporters to get out to vote and warning them not to be complacent.
“Clinton supporters are slightly less enthusiastic than Trump supporters,” Trippi acknowledged.
But, he said, Clinton “has a much stronger organization on the ground. People are really going to turn out to stop Trump and to stop Clinton – they are each other’s greatest motivators.”
Karl Rove, Fox News contributor and former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, suggested Trump could benefit from registered Republicans dropping their reservations at the end.
“There is a natural tendency, as you near the end, for partisans to come home, and the race really looks to be moving into his direction,” Rove said.
Then again, if the race really tightens, it could be 2000 all over again.
Mishkin said that data and polls are suggesting Trump may have sufficient support to pull off a “win” in the popular vote – but he could still lose in the electoral vote, and with it the race.
This has happened four times in American history, most recently when Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but lost to George W. Bush.
The Fox News Decision Team also says there is a “fairly high” chance at least one state will have a recount.
“Each state has certain rules regarding vote count,” Mishkin explained. “We’re looking at an election where, it is possible, neither candidate gets a huge electoral majority – recounts could be very important in this race.”