According to the Denver Post, the most recent presidential polls seem to show a tightening of the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton across the country. More importantly, they suggest Trump is making gains in many of the battleground states where – until recently – he was running far behind. However, these indications might not be as clear-cut as they seem.There are two principal reasons why Trump is doing better in the presidential polls now than he was two weeks ago. The first is that Trump's campaign handlers are – for the most part – doing a much better job of keeping him from saying what he actually thinks.
The recent incident in which the Republican nominee seemed to insinuate the potential for the assassination of Hillary Clinton is a notable exception to this success. But then, you can't always bat a thousand, can you?Of course, the second reason for Trump's apparent rise in the polls is Hillary Clinton's recent illness. The sight of a "weak and feeble woman" – as Queen Elizabeth might have put it – provided the Republicans with a golden opportunity to improve their position in the presidential polls by playing on the misogynistic tendencies of some of the voters.
However, despite the fact that news sites like the New York Post are shouting from the rafters about the sudden shift in the presidential polls and Donald Trump's resurgent campaign, the truth is a little different. A careful examination of the facts makes it clear that many of these news organizations are cherry picking their poll results to make the race look tighter than it actually is.This is hardly surprising. Cable news networks are often far more concerned about ratings and advertising revenue than they are about accurate reporting. After all, who's going to watch campaign coverage of an election that is basically already over?
One example of the biased reporting that's currently going on is that the definition of "battleground state" has become extremely flexible in the minds of television commentators and reporters. At one time, the idea that North Carolina could be a battleground state would have been ridiculous. It was a red state through and through.
Once Clinton surged ahead in the polls in North Carolina, suddenly it was redefined as a battleground state. In a sense, this seems obvious. On the surface at least, the battleground states should be those in which the contest is in question. However, another definition of battleground state would be those states that are vital to either party in the November election.
In other words, what can the candidates afford to lose? When we look at the actual presidential polls from some of the states where the news organizations are trumpeting huge changes, we find that in most of them Clinton is still in the lead. Let's look at Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.In 2004, George Bush won the perennially red state of Georgia by almost 58%. According to a recent Fox poll, Donald Trump currently leads Hillary Clinton in Georgia by only four percent. Some presidential polls have his lead there even lower. In no recent past election was Georgia ever considered a battleground state. While it's unlikely that Clinton will win Georgia, the possibility is startling.
North Carolina is – for the Clinton campaign – a nice little bonus if they get it. But because of the electoral map in the United States, Democrats have a huge advantage when it comes to presidential elections. While Clinton can afford to lose North Carolina, Trump definitely cannot. An average of all North Carolina polls shows Clinton still has a razor thin lead. Other recent polls show her as much is four points ahead.In the same way, the tightly contested presidential battle in Florida is one that Clinton – at least in theory – could afford to lose. However, no Republican presidential candidate in recent memory has won the presidency without also winning Florida. Even so, Trump's recent "surge" has given him an average lead in the Florida presidential polls of only one percent.
With Pennsylvania and Virginia, we at last come to two states that could be considered true battleground states. In other words, both the Republicans and the Democrats need to win these states if they want to have a reasonable chance of marching into the White House next January.The likelihood of that actually happening in Pennsylvania is still extremely low. Current polls in Pennsylvania show Clinton with an average lead of 6.6 percent. The most recent poll has her ahead by nine percent. Pennsylvania generally goes Democratic, and it seems likely to do so this year.
Let's look at the presidential race in Virginia. Every poll that's been taken shows Hillary Clinton with a sizable lead in the state. The average of all polls places her 3.5 percent ahead of Donald Trump. Some polls have her as much as eight points ahead. Given the extent to which demographics in Virginia have changed over the last few decades, it's almost impossible for Donald Trump to win Virginia. But you wouldn't think so from the way the Trump campaign's trying to spin it.
[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]