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Politics

Even the swing states where Trump and Clinton are tied aren’t enough to hand him a win

Around one in five voters nationwide report themselves as undecided or flirting with third-party candidates for president.

Hillary Clinton appears to have survived one of her worst stretches on the presidential campaign, including concerns about her health, with her lead intact in some key battleground states, several new polls indicate.

Surveys released this week delivered good news to Donald Trump in some states, Clinton others. But the balance continues to tilt toward the Democrat.

In Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, new polls by Fox News showed Trump leading, although narrowly. A poll released Thursday by the New York Times and Siena College showed the two candidates tied in North Carolina at 41% apiece.

The average of recent polls shows the two candidates in a dead heat in each of those three states. 

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The problem for Trump is that even if he wins them, those states aren’t enough. If Trump wins all three — plus Iowa, which is also a tossup in recent polls, and Florida, where Clinton appears to hold a slight lead — he would still fall short of a majority of electoral votes.

To get a majority he needs to do all that and break the Democrats’ hold on one of the states they have repeatedly won in recent elections. 

Republicans have targeted a handful of possibilities, but new polling in three of them — New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — showed Clinton holding on to her lead.

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In two other states that once appeared to be battlegrounds, Virginia and Colorado, Democrats stopped airing television ads weeks ago because they felt Clinton’s lead was secure, and new polls released Thursday by Colorado Mesa University and Roanoke College indicate that continues to be the case. 

In New Hampshire, a survey released Wednesday by Monmouth University showed Clinton with a nine-point lead over Trump, 47%-38% among likely voters. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee, drew 10%, while Jill Stein of the Green Party got 1%, the poll found.

Clinton has not trailed in a New Hampshire poll since mid-July, leading in 10 surveys by different organizations by margins that ranged from one point to 15. On average, polls show her leading in the state by about six points. 

In Wisconsin, a poll by Marquette University, also released Wednesday, showed Clinton leading Trump 44%-42% among likely voters, virtually identical to the lead she held in late August. Clinton had a slightly larger lead among all registered voters, 43%-38%.

In a four-way matchup that included Johnson and Stein, Clinton’s lead was similar, 41%-38% with Johnson at 11% and Stein at 2% among likely voters. Clinton led by four points among all registered voters in the four-way test.

Trump has not led in a Wisconsin poll all year and on average trails by about five points in recent polls. 

Voters on both sides increasingly see a Trump win as a possibility — and that may get more people to vote »

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And in Pennsylvania, a poll released earlier this week by Muhlenberg College and the Morning Call showed Clinton with a nine-point lead among likely voters, 47%-38%.

As in New Hampshire, Clinton has not trailed Trump in a public poll in Pennsylvania since late July. She has led in 15 consecutive polls by margins ranging from two to 11 points. On average, her lead in the state has been about six points.

The polls point to some of the challenges both nominees face, which so far have proven more daunting to Trump than Clinton.

The Marquette poll, for example, showed that in both parties, large numbers of voters wish their party had nominated someone else. But while Trump gets 65% of the vote from Republicans who would like a different candidate, Clinton gets 72% of the vote from Democrats who would have preferred someone else.

Both candidates are viewed unfavorably by large parts of the electorate, but Trump’s numbers are worse. Just over 6 in 10 Wisconsin voters view him unfavorably, while half of the state’s voters view Clinton unfavorably.

Clinton’s image with Wisconsin voters has improved slightly since late August, the survey found — a result in line with several other recent polls elsewhere that show small improvements in her favorability.

In the Monmouth poll, Clinton got the support of 94% of New Hampshire Democrats, while Trump got backing from 85% of the state’s Republicans. In that state, too, voters had negative views of both candidates, but Clinton’s standing was just a bit better — 36% favorable compared with 30% favorable for Trump.

The Republican nominee’s recent effort to extract himself from his five-year-long advocacy of so-called birther claims about President Obama also fell flat with New Hampshire voters. Only about 3 in 10 of the state’s voters said they thought Trump really believes Obama is a natural-born citizen. Just over half think he said so for political purposes.

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One of the big reasons Trump has struggled in some of those states is his relative weakness with college-educated white voters — a group that Republicans have traditionally carried.

In Pennsylvania, for example, Trump is weak not only in Philadelphia, the state’s Democratic stronghold, but also in the Philadelphia suburbs, where the ballots of college-educated white voters have often given Republicans a majority.

In North Carolina, Trump has a huge lead among whites without a college degree, 66%-17%, but among whites with a degree, Clinton has a very narrow edge, 39%-38%, the New York Times/Siena poll found.

That same weakness for Trump shows up nationally. In the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal survey, released Wednesday, Trump trailed among college-educated white voters 42%-37%. By contrast, in 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney carried that group by 14 points, according to exit polls. 

Overall, the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey had Clinton ahead by six points, 43%-37%, among likely voters. Johnson took 9% and Stein 3%.

Among Latino voters, Clinton led 71%-18%, the survey found — about the same advantage Obama had four years ago. In a four-way matchup including Johnson and Stein, her advantage fell to 65%-17%, with Johnson at 9% and Stein 2%.

The poll showed several areas of potential trouble for Clinton — notably a lack of enthusiasm and interest about the campaign on the part of younger voters and African Americans. But as Republicans discovered in 2012, having an edge on enthusiasm doesn’t guarantee victory. For now, with the campaign’s first debate coming Monday, Clinton appears to still be on top. 

David.Lauter@latimes.com

For more on Politics and Policy, follow me @DavidLauter

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