A new poll from Quinnipiac shows Trump and Crooked Hillary statistically tied, each in the low 40% range. Their sample included roughly equal numbers of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, unlike many other polls that are stacked more toward Democrats, on the assumption that the turnout for this election to end all elections will look like it did during the boring non-events of the past several elections.
Also encouraging is that Trump wins by a landslide on the issues of the economy and terrorism, and the personal qualities of honesty / trustworthiness and leadership. Those are far and away the most important issues and qualities to the respondents, so much so that others are barely on their radar.
Since people are going to be paying a little too much attention to public polls, as the general election heats up, let's take stock of how good things look already.
At worst, Trump polls around 40% and Hillary around 45%. What can we tell about the state of the race, even if this worst case scenario were true?
Hillary tended to underperform her polls in the primaries, while Trump overperformed them. Add those together, this puts them even in reality despite a 5 point lead in the polls for Hillary.
The 15% of voters who are undecided or not answering at this stage will go more for Trump than Hillary. Probably 10% for Trump, 5% for Hillary. That would make them polling both at 50%, and factoring in their performance relative to polls, gives Trump a comfortable win.
Why will the undecided / no answer people go more for Trump? They can't be confused about where the two stand relative to each other on issues or personal qualities. These candidates are night and day. And the issues and qualities that are most important now have always been since the primaries, and will continue to be through the general -- economy, terrorism, honesty, strong leadership.
If you are closer to Hillary, you are already on board. There's nothing keeping you back. Your peers, family, the media, the entire world is telling you that you're on the right side for voting Hillary.
These undecided voters are really just uneasy about voting for Trump. They are closer to his orbit than Crooked Hillary's, but they're sensitive about bumpy rides. Some times they'll drift closer, sometimes get cold feet, then come back again, etc. Every pressure imaginable is pushing them away 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And despite that, they aren't being converted into higher numbers for Hillary. Her numbers are fairly flat, while Trump's numbers will rise and fall periodically, as his sensitive voters vacillate about joining the bumpy ride.
Ultimately, then, most of these undecideds will vote Trump.
That is just the picture for the national popular vote. The same applies at the state level where it counts. Polls are showing Trump at worst behind Hillary by about 5 points, with double digits undecided. Particularly in blue states, these undecideds have absolutely nothing to worry about in saying they'll vote Hillary -- so why aren't they? They'd conform with their state's recent history, they'd get the respectability of the overly educated elite in their region, as well as the approval of the media.
I'm not saying Trump will blow away Crooked Hillary in all states, let alone in former blue states. But all he needs is one more vote than 50%, and he gets all the Electoral College votes for that state. His national share could be barely over 50%, but if that level holds across the country, he will win in a landslide because of the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College.
Thus, there will many more "close" states, say where the margin of victory is under 5 points. Trump is turning many blue states into toss-up states -- Michigan, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and others.
This happened before in 1980, when Reagan got 50.7% nationally, but 489 electoral votes because that support was so widespread around the country, rather than concentrated in deeply red states. In 1980, there were 16 close states, 12 of which were won by the winner. Quite a few were former Democrat strongholds in the South, which began to realign in favor of Republicans after the Civil Rights era.
By 2012 there were only 4 close states because the country had become more solidly polarized along liberal vs. conservative lines. Trump is unwinding the lib vs. con culture wars, and is already appealing to a far broader swath of the nation than the Conservative, Inc. candidates from the past quarter-century. This is akin to the earlier realignment of the South, only now there will be a gradual realignment of the Rust Belt, the Pacific Northwest, and parts of the Mid-Atlantic.
Expect for there to be many nail-biter states, as regions realign out of the culture war era, but also expect for more of them to go for Trump than against -- including those with decent-sized electoral prizes, like Michigan and Pennsylvania, and not only Iowa and New Hampshire.
Hillary is not appealing to a very broad range of the country, and seems to be intent on only driving up her numbers in relatively safer states like New York, California, and Illinois, whose large populations make them more influential in national polls. That seems like the only explanation for why the state races are polling so close, while the national race gives her a somewhat wider lead (on the face of it).
I still see no major reason to revise my forecast for a comfortable Trump win in November. Not that he's going to literally knock her block off on the debate stage, win 80% of the popular vote, and then dance on her grave. But given the winner-take-all Electoral College, he can leverage narrow wins in many toss-up states into a wipe-out in electoral votes. Those will include not only the old swing states from the culture war era, but now many blue states that want to realign away from Wall Street and an interventionist foreign policy.