The 2016 presidential race is, borrowing a phrase from Donald Trump, once again keeping America in “suspense” – with the polls and the electoral map being scrambled in the final days amid a slew of late-breaking developments.
Just one week ago, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton had assumed a confident air on the stump, enjoying a rare period when the political pieces were aligning for her in the wake of damaging allegations against her Republican rival. But the polls are tightening again, as voters assess a range of other factors, including the FBI’s stunning decision to revisit her private email investigation.
Election prognosticators still say Clinton enjoys the advantage going into the big day – in large part because the states President Obama won in 2012 mostly have stayed Democrat-leaning this year, giving her a substantial built-in advantage.
But, even though Trump faces a tough climb to the 270 electoral votes it takes to win, the map is changing in the final days, in several cases in his favor.
The latest Fox News Electoral Scorecard has moved both Florida and Nevada – two states previously rated “lean Democrat” – into the “toss-up” category, citing shifts in the polls.
The same update moved Alaska from “solid Republican” to “lean Republican” and North Carolina from “toss-up” to “lean Democrat.” But in another indicator of how difficult the race is to gauge, a new WRAL News poll showed Trump with a 7-point lead in North Carolina, despite other polls showing Clinton ahead.
National polls show the race tightening up into a virtual draw. The latest ABC News/ Washington Post tracking poll shows the candidates tied, 46-46 percent.
As with any election year, what matters is what happens in the battlegrounds.
“In the end, the popular vote isn’t what matters. It’s the Electoral College,” pollster Frank Luntz told Fox News. “And that Electoral College map is very difficult for Donald Trump, even though in every other indicator, it’s moving in the right direction for him.”
The Fox News Electoral Scorecard shows all the “solid” and “lean” Democrat states would give Clinton 287 electoral votes, more than enough to take the White House. The Republican-rated states give Trump 174.
To win, Trump would need to lock down the toss-up states as well as pick off territory from the Democratic column.
On the campaign trail, Trump is sounding more confident of his chances, no longer focusing as heavily on warnings that the vote would be “rigged” against him.
“In just one week, we are going to win the great state of Wisconsin and we are going to win back the White House … lotta’ good polls out there today,” he declared at a rally Tuesday night in Eau Claire, Wis., while also citing the North Carolina poll.
Trump has seized on a spate of developments, including the FBI’s investigation of newly discovered emails on a laptop used by Clinton adviser Huma Abedin’s estranged husband Anthony Weiner – as well as the tidal wave of revelations from WikiLeaks-posted emails from the Clinton campaign chairman’s hacked account.
The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, has returned to hammering Trump over alleged Russia connections and his alleged mistreatment of women.
On this theme, former Miss Universe Alicia Machado introduced Clinton at a rally in Dade City, Fla., telling the crowd she was “scared” of Trump.
Machado made headlines after accusing Trump of being verbally abusive to her by calling her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” when she held the 1996 Miss Universe title.
“He made fun of me and I didn’t know how to respond,” she said. Machado said taunts from Trump led to years of battling “eating disorders.”
Clinton told the crowd, “Can we just stop for a minute and reflect on the absurdity of Donald Trump finding fault with Miss Universe?”