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Election Update: How Clinton Could Win Without Florida And Ohio

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Hillary Clinton has an 87 percent chance of winning the presidency according to the FiveThirtyEight polls-only model and a 77 percent shot according to our polls-plus model. Several new national polls reinforced the picture we already had: Clinton leads Donald Trump by about 7 or 8 percentage points. We also got some new state polls, including in Florida, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, South Carolina and Texas, and while our topline forecasts haven’t changed much, those surveys emphasized how many different paths Clinton has to victory.

If you’ve followed politics over the past 20 years, you’ve probably heard repeatedly that the two most important swing states are Florida and Ohio. That’s not untrue. Both states are at the center of things this year too — they rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in our tipping-point index, which measures which states are most likely to provide the decisive vote in the Electoral College.

But it’s also easy to overstate the importance of Florida and Ohio. In the simulations our models run, Florida or Ohio prove crucial less than 30 percent of the time. Indeed, Clinton has some viable paths to the White House even if she loses Florida, Iowa, Nevada or Ohio — all states where her polling has been lackluster relative to her national numbers. That’s because she’s outperforming her national polls in Colorado and Virginia.

And then there’s New Hampshire, where we just got some new polling. Let’s take a closer gander at what’s going on in the Granite State.

Take a look at our “winding path to 270 electoral votes” graphic:


New Hampshire puts Clinton over the finish line in both our polls-only and polls-plus model.1 Three post-convention polls have been conducted in the Granite State, and Clinton has been up at least 10 percentage points in each. This includes a Vox Populi Polling survey published Wednesday that puts her ahead by 10 percentage points and a Public Policy Polling poll released Thursday that gives her a 13-point lead.

You might have expected New Hampshire to be one of Trump’s stronger states. He cruised in the New Hampshire primary, while Clinton got crushed by Bernie Sanders. New Hampshire is one of the whitest states in the nation, and it seemed like Trump’s appeal to white voters without a college degree might help him improve upon Mitt Romney’s performance in the Granite State, which wasn’t all that great among that group. Also, Trump is doing better than Romney did in next-door Maine, which has somewhat similar demographics and where a new Gravis poll has Trump down 10 percentage points — Romney lost Maine by 15 points.

So what’s up? A lot of people have focused on the education gap this election — white voters with a college degree favor Clinton, white voters without one favor Trump — but Clinton may be benefiting in New Hampshire from another gap that fewer people are talking about: evangelical Christians vs. non-evangelical Christians. Compared with Romney, Trump has seen a huge jump in support nationally from white born-again/evangelical Christians who attend church infrequently. My former colleague Leah Libresco put together this excellent chart last month using Pew Research Center data:


As the chart shows, Trump is doing better than Romney did among born-again and evangelical Christians but worse among Catholic voters. And that might explain New Hampshire. White born-again and evangelical Christians make up just 9 percent of New Hampshire’s population. White Catholics, meanwhile, are 24 percent, double their national share. Compare New Hampshire to Maine: While Mainers, like New Hampshirites, are among the least likely in the nation to go to church frequently, 19 percent of Maine residents identify as white born-again/evangelical Christians, the highest share among New England states. Only 17 percent of Mainers, meanwhile, are white Catholics, the lowest share in New England.

Our polls-only and polls-plus models are still waiting on a few more polls to put New Hampshire firmly in Clinton’s column, given that she polled relatively poorly there earlier in the year. Polls-only gives her an 80 percent chance of winning the state and puts her margin at about 8 points, just about where national polls have the race. Clinton has a 69 percent chance of winning New Hampshire according to polls-plus. But New Hampshire is highly “elastic” — it tends to swing back and forth between the parties — so it’s easy to imagine Trump improving his numbers there if national polling starts to favor him more.

Still, the New Hampshire polls have to be welcome news for the Clinton campaign. Her strong numbers there, and in Colorado and Virginia, give her a path to victory even if Florida, Iowa, Nevada and Ohio remain close:



  1. New Hampshire doesn’t rank higher in our tipping-point calculation because it has only four electoral votes.

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