Clinton 306
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Ties 18
Trump 214
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Click for Senate
Dem 49
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GOP 51
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  • Strongly Dem (194)
  • Likely Dem (66)
  • Barely Dem (46)
  • Exactly tied (18)
  • Barely GOP (56)
  • Likely GOP (65)
  • Strongly GOP (93)
270 Electoral votes needed to win Map algorithm explained
New polls: FL MI NH
Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ
GOP pickups vs. 2012: IA VA

Clinton Has a Large National Lead

The combination of a successful convention and a very bad week for Donald Trump has propelled Hillary Clinton to a large lead in the national polls. Seven national polls have been conducted after the Democratic National Convention and Clinton leads in all of them, with margins varying from 4% to 14%. Here are the polls:

Date Clinton Trump Johnson Stein Pollster
Aug. 4 45% 31% 10% 6% Marist Coll.
Aug. 4 44% 40% 6% 3% Rasmussen
Aug. 3 44% 35% 12% - Fox News
Aug. 1 43% 38% 10% 2% CBS
Aug. 1 45% 37% 9% 5% CNN/ORC
Jul. 30 46% 41% 6% 2% PPP
Jul. 30 46% 31% 6% 2% RABA Research

Clinton's score is fairly consistent, in the narrow range of 43% to 46%, while Trump varies wildly, depending on the pollster. Still, most likely he is below 40%. While national polls are still not indicative for the final results this early, it is clear that Clinton is definitely ahead now. As new state polls come in, she is likely to pick up ground there as well. (V)

Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball: Clinton Landslide

Larry Sabato, a well-respected political analyst at the University of Virginia, has gone out on a limb and predicted the electoral map for November's election. It looks like this:

Larry Sabato's map

One of Sabato's self-imposed rules is: no cop-outs, no calling states "tossups" or "too close to call." Every state must be predicted. Surprise! It is the 2012 map with North Carolina turned blue. His argument is that almost everyone's opinion has long been fixed. If you are a Clinton supporter, ask yourself: "Is there any gaffe that Clinton could make that would flip you to Trump?" If you are a Trump supporter, ask yourself: "Is there something Trump could say where you would throw in the towel and give up on him?" Probably not, in both cases. This is why Sabato says he doesn't expect a lot of change from 2012.

The only state that he flips is North Carolina. This has nothing to do with the daily news cycle, and is simply a question of demographics. As more and more Northerners are moving into the Research Triangle Park area, with its high-tech and financial companies, there are increasingly many Democrats there, and by 2016 they may finally have outnumbered the Republicans that dominate the rural part of the state. It has nothing to do with the Khan family or the scandal du jour. It's all about fundamentals. Obama won North Carolina in 2008 and almost won it in 2012. It, like Virginia, is simply becoming more like Maryland and less like South Carolina. Maybe it should change its name to South Virginia.

Although our current map is rather different from the final 2012 map, we believe that Sabato is right on target. Trump's whole strategy is to win the Rust Belt, but we see no evidence that it is working. Pennsylvania is Trump's best chance at winning a Rust Belt state in the Democrats' "blue wall," but of the 15 Pennsylvania polls in our database, Clinton is ahead in 13 and one was tied. If he can't win Pennsylvania, he's not going to win the others, except possibly Ohio, which is not part of the Democrats' 242-electoral-vote blue wall. Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Florida have many Latinos and not enough angry displaced factory workers. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) is from Virginia, so that is probably a lost cause for Trump. Which Obama state can Trump flip outside the Rust Belt? It's hard to find one. The hard fact here is that people don't change their fundamental partisanship due to the daily news cycle. And that means the 2016 map is likely to be more-or-less like the 2012 map, give or take a couple of states. (V)

Ryan and Others Are Walking a Fine Line

Donald Trump has had a very bad couple of weeks, from anti-Semitic tweets, to plagiarism, to the Khan family fiasco, to being caught breaking immigration law (see below). Every time a new scandal breaks, reporters go running to high-profile Republicans like Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) to ask them what they think. On Thursday, Ryan affirmed that he still supports the Party's nominee, but that his endorsement does not constitute a "blank check" for Trump to do and say whatever he wants.

Reflecting on these verbal gymnastics, Slate's Jim Newell wonders what exactly the limits of that blank check are. Ryan has described Trump's comments about the Khan family as "beyond the pale," so apparently "beyond the pale" is still OK. He also characterized Trump's attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel as the "textbook definition of a racist comment," so apparently textbook racism is OK, too. Newell suspects that the check actually has no limit, but also that Trump will do his best to find out if that's true.

Ryan's dilemma recalls Thomas Jefferson's description of slavery: "[W]e have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go." For 2016 purposes, Ryan (and many other Republicans running for office) cannot turn on the Party's nominee. To do so would risk being called the dirtiest name in Republican politics—RINO—and might also encourage GOP voters to stay home on Election Day. On the other hand, savvy politicos like Ryan and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) can see the writing on the wall, and envision a possible future when "they endorsed Trump!" will be as poisonous as "they voted to invade Iraq!" Thus we have the splitting-of-hairs approach, wherein Republican candidates "support" Trump, but they do not "endorse" him. It's their way of having the Trump by the hair, neither holding him nor letting go. Whether this strategy will work, only time will tell. (Z)

Trump May Start to Drag Senate Candidates Down

FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten has taken a look at the 10 closest Senate races (nine of them GOP-controlled seats, one Democratic-controlled). He observes that, at the moment, they are all competitive, and that in all 10 cases the Republican candidate is doing better than Donald Trump in the polls. In other words, The Donald does not appear to be doing harm so far, as poll respondents seem to be happy to split their tickets as needed. However, as Enten notes, 2012 saw several Senators' polling numbers collapse in September and October. He suspects that this may happen again, as the impact of Trump manifests itself.

Enten's thesis centers on ticket-splitting, which is fairly uncommon in modern American politics. His presumption is that many voters who currently say they are going to split their ticket will not actually do so. This is not, in our view, the best explanation for what happened in 2012, and what might happen in 2016. For this explanation to be correct would require that loyal Republican voters who currently plan to vote Clinton and, say, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) decide at a late moment that as long as they're voting Democratic for president, they might as well vote for Democratic Senate candidate Deborah Ross, and all the other Democrats on the ticket. Does this really seem plausible? More likely would be that they hold their noses, abandon Clinton, and vote a straight Republican ticket.

A more viable explanation is that, as Election Day draws near and the polls get both more numerous and more accurate, voters realize that their horse is a loser, and so they stay home instead of voting. Put more succinctly, Enten's thesis is that someone who is currently a Clinton/Burr voter spontaneously becomes a Clinton/Ross voter to avoid ticket splitting. Ours is that someone who is currently a Trump/Burr voter becomes disheartened and simply doesn't show up, thus depriving both men of a vote.

Whichever thesis is correct (or if they both are), timing matters. If Trump craters too early, then the endangered candidates can clearly distance themselves from him and all the campaign money can be sent in their direction. The GOP can focus its messaging: "We must keep the Senate!" And perhaps most importantly, Republican voters can begin the "grieving" process, with 8-10 weeks to persuade themselves that it's still worthwhile to show up to vote. So, the Democrats would love Donald Trump to become an anchor around the necks of Rep. Joe Heck (R-NV), Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Sen Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), et al., but they would prefer that the drag only begin to have an effect around September 20 or so. (Z)

Melania Trump May Have Been an Undocumented Worker

Politico has unearthed evidence that Melania Trump may have violated immigration laws in the 1990s. The law the former Melania Knauss (nee Melanija Knavs) may have violated has nothing to do with pornography, but instead with working. In a January interview, she said that in her early days in the U.S., she would return to her native Slovenia every few months to have her visa renewed. That almost certainly means that she came on a 6-month tourist or business visa, both of which prohibit all forms of work and employment. Yet she did modeling when she was in the U.S., including the nude shoot that the Post published. Assuming she was paid for taking off her clothes and hanging around while photographers took pictures of her, she was clearly in violation of her visa and the law.

Furthermore, each time she entered the U.S. the immigration agent would normally have asked her the purpose of her trip. If she had answered truthfully and said "modeling work," she would have been denied admission. So most likely she lied to the agent and said she was a tourist. Lying to an immigration agent is a felony.

Melania is not the only Trump to have broken immigration laws. Her husband has repeatedly attacked the H-1B visa program as a way companies bring foreign nationals to the U.S. to undercut American wages. While the H-1B program is commonly used to bring over technology workers, it also applies to fashion models. In 1999, Donald Trump founded a modeling agency that used H-1B visas to import foreign models. One such model it brought in is the Jamaican Alexia Palmer. The agency promised her $75,000 per year for her work, but paid her only a few thousand dollars. She is now suing. These numbers matter because when a company brings in a worker on an H-1B, the company must promise to pay the worker the prevailing wage, to avoid undercutting American workers. Failure to pay the amount specified in the H-1B application is a violation of federal law. CNN has obtained a copy of Palmer's application and, indeed, it specifies she will be paid at least $75,000 per year.

Furthermore, Palmer was not an isolated case. Since 2008, Trump's agency has brought in around 30 models using the H-1B program. In almost all cases, it promised to pay the models $75,000. If it failed to do that in the other cases as well, the agency would be in serious violation of immigration law. So for a candidate whose whole campaign is based on keeping out immigrants, it appears that both The Donald and The Donaldess have both violated immigration law. (V)

Clinton Is Targeting Influential Republicans

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) were very upset with Hillary Clinton's pick of Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA), not so much because they had any real objection to Kaine, who is actually to the left of Sanders on several issues (e.g., guns and civil rights) but because they saw that as a move to the right. They were probably correct. Clinton is now ramping up a big effort to woo high-profile Republicans and get them to endorse her. She has already landed HP CEO Meg Whitman, Jeb Bush adviser Sally Bradshaw, and Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), but hopes to get many more. The idea is that if many influential Republicans openly dis Trump and support Clinton, it gives ordinary Republican voters "permission" to vote Democratic this one time without feeling they are betraying their party.

One kind of leader Clinton wants is the foreign-policy professional who worked in one of the Bush administrations. Someone who was high in a Republican administration could say that Trump would weaken the U.S. abroad and harm its national security by making foreign governments less likely to work with the U.S. to stamp out ISIS. It shouldn't be hard to find some of these as well as high-ranking retired military officers.

A second target group consists of Republican economists, either from the Bush administration or the private sector, who would say Trump will cause the economy to crater.

A third group is what she calls "decency Republicans," who are appalled by Trump's insulting a Gold Star family, attacking an entire religion, going after an American judge of Mexican heritage, and more.

Finally, a fourth group consists of Republican candidates who feel that being associated with Trump may be the end of their careers. The idea is for them to say: "I'm a Wisconsin Republican, not a Trump Republican," or something similar in other states. Normally endorsements don't matter much, but if Clinton can line up dozens of highly visible Republicans and get them to attack their own nominee, it could sway a few uncomfortable Republicans, and if the election is close, every bit helps. (V)

Clinton Has To Figure out How To Use Her Billionaires

In addition to scouring the streets for Republicans, Hillary Clinton is building up a small stable of billionaires to help her. She's already lined up Warren Buffett, Michael Bloomberg, Mark Cuban, and Meg Whitman, with more sure to be announced over time. Now her problem is to figure out how to deploy them. One possible approach is to use their business acumen, and have them pitch her plans to help small businesses grow into big businesses. Having them tear down Trump's business record, pointing out the long trail of stiffed contractors and fleeced investors could also be an area where they have credibility. So far, Trump hasn't lined up many billionaires publicly, outside of close friend Peter Thiel, although he claims to be good friends with Carl Icahn. (V)

What if Trump Dumps Trump? (Part II)

Yesterday, we talked a bit about what happens if Donald Trump decides to drop out of the election sometime before November 8. The executive summary: The RNC would replace him, but if he drops out too late, it may be impossible to get the replacement candidate's name on the ballot in many states. There was one aspect of this situation that we touched on fairly briefly that demands a bit more attention, however, namely the selection of electors. The basic question is this: If Donald Trump's name is still on the ballot, and he wins electors, could those electors be easily converted into, say, Paul Ryan electors?

While the question is simple, the answer is anything but, given the federal nature of the American democracy. The Constitution (specifically, Art. II, Sec. 1) grants the state legislatures the authority to decide how electors are chosen. They, in turn, have all delegated that responsibility to the political parties. Consequently, there are 51 different sets of similar, but not identical, procedures for selecting presidential electors. The main variances:

  • How are they chosen? Generally speaking, there are two ways in which electors (who are almost always long-time party activists) are picked. In some cases, the state party's central committee selects candidates. In others, candidates declare themselves, and are voted upon at the state convention.

  • When are they chosen? In many states, electors have already been chosen, having been picked at the same time that delegates to the RNC and DNC were chosen. In others, the parties have until some stated deadline (usually, sometime in September or October) to submit slates of electors.

  • Are they bound to a person, or to a party? Some electors are just "Republican" electors or "Democratic" electors. Others are specifically "Trump" electors or "Clinton" electors or "Cruz" electors.

  • How committed are they? As we noted yesterday, in 21 states, there is no penalty for ignoring the will of the state's voters. In the other 29 states (and D.C.), an elector is legally required to vote for the candidate for whom their state voted, at risk of some penalty—usually a fine, or a brief jail sentence.

The latter two questions are the most important ones. Many readers will be familiar with the term for electors who vote for a candidate other than the ones to whom they are pledged: faithless. Just this week, one Georgia elector threatened to withhold his vote from Trump over the Khizr Khan fiasco, before choosing to resign instead. There have been a total of 157 faithless electors in American history, sometimes due to error, sometimes because the candidate had died in between the election and the meeting of the electors, sometimes because they wished to make some sort of statement (for example, the gentleman who withheld a vote from James Monroe, so as to preserve George Washington's record as the only unanimous victor of the Electoral College). Generally, it is a lone "rebel," but there have been a few examples of coordinated faithlessness, mostly involving Southern electors in the 19th century.

In virtually any scenario where Trump drops out, he would likely still claim some electors that are supposed to vote for him. And, barring a landslide victory for his replacement, the GOP will need some (probably most) of those Trump electors to be faithless if they are to claim the White House. Therein lies the rub. The laws forbidding faithlessness have never actually been enforced, and it's not entirely clear that they are Constitutional. The GOP could ask the Supreme Court, but they're likely to issue a 4-4 split decision. On top of that, some Trump electors—anti-establishment as they are—may prefer to play spoiler. There's also the risk—actually, the likelihood—that key electors could hold out for...well, remember the story of the genie in the bottle. The level of corruption that could creep into the process, since many of the faithless electors would be breaking the law anyway, might make Boss Tweed blush. None of this would be pretty, and none of it would be good for the health of the American democracy. So, even those who don't like Trump (or who do like drama) should probably be rooting that he sees this thing through. (Z)

Why Mormons Don't Like Trump

Normally, Utah is one of the reddest states in the country, but this year it is likely to be close, and there is even an outside chance Hillary Clinton could win the state. The reason, of course, is that the state is about 60% Mormon, and the Mormons have a lot of problems with Trump. Some of these are cultural. Mormons believe in being civil, respectful, and honest, and many of them see Trump lacking in all three commodities. But there is much more. Mormons have a long history of being a persecuted minority, so they have little taste for a candidate who openly attacks other religions, as Trump does. Furthermore, Mormons are active missionaries in many countries and are very international in their orientation. Anti-immigrant screeds do not go over well with them.

The history of the Republicans and the Mormons goes back to the first Republican platform, drawn up in 1856. In it, the Republicans attacked the "twin relics of barbarism—polygamy and slavery." For decades the Republicans were extremely anti-Mormon, imprisoning many Mormon men. Some Mormons fled to Mexico to avoid persecution by Republicans, including Mitt Romney's great grandfather, Miles Park Romney. Democrats didn't have much of a problem with slavery (since the slave owners in the South were all Democrats) and while they were at it, didn't have a lot of issues with Mormons either. In 1896, when the LDS church officially forbade polygamy so Utah could become a state, many Mormons felt they should become Democrats, but the nephew of church founder Joseph Smith argued that Republicans believed in hierarchical authority, just as they did, so everyone should become a Republican. In the 20th century, the Republicans' emphasis on religion and conservative social values kept Utahns in the tent. Now with Trump rejecting so much of the standard Republican ideology, the Democrats have a (small) shot at winning the Beehive State. (V)

Today's Presidential Polls

Finally! Another Florida poll. We have gone weeks without one in the mother of all swing states. Clinton has a small lead in a state that Trump must win to have any chance at getting to 270 electoral votes. Trump's natural constituency—blue-collar workers who have lost their jobs when their factories moved overseas—are scarce on the ground here, whereas Latinos are plentiful. Furthermore, Florida is an extremely expensive state to advertise in. None of these things are going to help Trump catch up. (V)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Florida 43% 39% 4% Aug 01 Aug 03 Suffolk U.
Michigan 41% 32% 8% Jul 30 Aug 01 DetroitNews/Glengariff
New Hampshire 47% 32% 8% Jul 29 Aug 01 MassINC

Today's Senate Polls

The Senate race is heating up. With these new polls, the Republicans lead 51 to 49. It could be close. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Patrick Murphy 33% Marco Rubio* 46% Aug 01 Aug 03 Suffolk U.
New Hampshire Maggie Hassan 50% Kelly Ayotte* 40% Jul 29 Aug 01 MassINC

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug04 Republicans Are Holding the Senate
Aug04 Trump May Be Preparing To Challenge the Election Results
Aug04 Trump Says His Campaign is Unified
Aug04 What If Trump Dumps Trump?
Aug04 Trump Revises July Haul Upward
Aug04 How To Play Trump in Clinton's Debate Prep
Aug04 Team Clinton To Spend Almost $100 Million on Ads
Aug04 Meg Whitman Supports Clinton
Aug04 Texas Won't Ask for Voter ID Cards in November
Aug04 Tea Party Congressman Defeated in Primary in Kansas
Aug04 Lewandowski is Back on the Birther Train
Aug04 What if the Democrats Nominated Sean Penn?
Aug04 Republican Are Holding the Senate
Aug04 Trump May Be Preparing To Challenge the Election Results
Aug04 Trump Says His Campaign is Unified
Aug04 Trump Revises July Haul Upward
Aug04 What If Trump Dumps Trump?
Aug04 How To Play Trump in Clinton's Debate Prep
Aug04 Team Clinton To Spend Almost $100 Million on Ads
Aug04 Meg Whitman Supports Clinton
Aug04 Texas Won't Ask for Voter ID Cards in November
Aug04 Tea Party Congressman Defeated in Primary in Kansas
Aug04 Lewandowski is Back on the Birther Train
Aug04 What if the Democrats Nominated Sean Penn?
Aug03 More Decorated Veterans Excoriate Trump for Criticizing a Gold Star Family
Aug03 Trump Spokeswoman Blames Obama for Humayun Khan's Death
Aug03 Trump Got Five Draft Deferments to Stay Out of Vietnam
Aug03 Trump Receives a Purple Heart
Aug03 Trump Refuses To Endorse Ryan or McCain
Aug03 The Walls: Red, White, and Blue (and Pink)
Aug03 Clinton Outraised Trump in July
Aug03 DNC Shakeups Continue
Aug03 Jill Stein Names Her Running Mate
Aug02 The Khan Story Just Won't Die
Aug02 Gallup: Democratic Convention Better Than Republican Convention
Aug02 Clinton Leads in New National Polls
Aug02 Surprise Endorsements for Clinton and Trump
Aug02 Trump Is Afraid the Election May Be Rigged
Aug02 Trump Raised $36 Million in July
Aug02 Trump Fights FireFighters with Fire
Aug02 Buffett Presses Trump on Tax Returns
Aug02 The October Surprise Could Be in Iraq
Aug02 McCain Is Caught Between a Rock and a Border Wall
Aug02 Wasserman Schultz Leads Her Primary Opponent
Aug02 Trump Praises Ryan's Primary Challenger
Aug01 Clinton Gets Convention Bounce
Aug01 Koch Brothers Will Not Help Trump
Aug01 Top Sanders Surrogate May Join Green Ticket
Aug01 The Battle for Pennsylvania Is All About Geography
Aug01 Ohio Is Also about Geography