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Election Update: Trump’s Best Chance To Win In Obama Territory Is In Maine

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The polls are coming in fast now. About 20 polls have been released today, and they confirm that Hillary Clinton still leads the presidential race but by a smaller margin than a few weeks ago. The FiveThirtyEight polls-only forecast gives her a 68 percent chance of winning the election, while the polls-plus forecast has her at a 67 percent chance. That’s about where both candidates stood on Tuesday.

Most of the state polls that came out today are from Emerson College. They were all in states in the Northeast and New England and found Clinton ahead of Donald Trump pretty much everywhere.

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Some of Emerson’s results — one poll showed Clinton up only 3 percentage points in Rhode Island, for instance — seem favorable to Trump relative to other polls and demographics in each state. (Keep in mind that Emerson doesn’t call cellphones and that many younger voters, who favor Clinton over Trump, don’t have land lines.) Other Emerson polls — the firm found Clinton with a large advantage in New York — comport with the evidence we already had.

But perhaps the most interesting finding came from Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, where Emerson puts Trump at 41 percent and Clinton at 36 percent. Both our polls-only and polls-plus models now have Trump with about a 63 percent chance of winning the 2nd District, which covers most of Maine north of Portland, even though Mitt Romney lost it by nearly 10 points in 2012. Because Maine is one of only two states (along with Nebraska) to assign some of its electoral votes by congressional district, Trump would win one electoral vote out of Maine if the poll and our forecasts are right.

Are they right? If the 2nd District goes red despite Clinton winning nationally by 4 or 5 points (what our forecasts currently project), that would be a big swing in the district’s political leanings relative to the nation. But there are reasons to believe it might happen.

  1. Trump is underperforming Romney among whites with a college degree and outperforming him among whites without a college degree. Maine’s 2nd Congressional District has a lot of non-college-educated white voters. According to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, 75 percent of the district’s residents who are 25 or older are whites without a degree. That’s the 14th-highest of the 435 districts nationwide, and Maine’s 2nd District is the only one of the top 20 that was not carried by Romney, so Trump has a lot of room to grow there.
  1. Maine residents, like those in other Northeastern states, are among the least likely to go to church in the nation. But Maine also has more white evangelicals than other states in the region. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 19 percent of Mainers say they are white evangelical protestants. No other New England state breaks double digits. That’s important because Trump is doing far better than Romney did among white evangelicals who don’t go to church frequently.

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  1. Money has been spent on pro-Trump advertising in Maine. Back in June, the National Rifle Association reserved some television airtime in Bangor (in the 2nd Congressional District). Campaigning in blue states is one thing, but spending money on ads is another. It suggests the race is competitive.
  1. Emerson isn’t the first pollster to show Trump ahead in Maine’s 2nd District. A June poll from the University of New Hampshire found Trump leading 37 percent to 36 percent there. The national polls have, if anything, tightened since that time, so another poll showing a winnable race for Trump there shouldn’t be a surprise.

At the end of the day, the one electoral vote in Maine’s 2nd District probably won’t make or break either Clinton or Trump. It’s the tipping-point contest in less than 0.5 percent of simulations in both our polls-only and polls-plus models. Still, it’s Trump’s best shot at this time to flip an electoral vote that was won by Obama into his column.


Harry Enten is a senior political writer and analyst for FiveThirtyEight.

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