Trump is closer than you think
The conventional wisdom is that Pennsylvania is Trump's surest way to 270. Trump is trailing in the Pennsylvania RCP average by 7.3 points, so quite a few pundits are confidently writing Trump off as a sure loser. The problem with this confidence, however, is that Pennsylvania is not Trump's surest bet. In fact, the Midwest plus Florida and possibly New Hampshire, provides a clearer and currently quite realistic path to 269, the actual number that he needs.
Trump is only trailing by an average of 2.5 points in these states, with the largest lead being four points, but the rest are three points or less. So we're not talking unrealistic scenarios. Here it is.
Trump loses Pennsylvania but wins Florida and Ohio; most pundits think it's over. But that's wrong. Actually, it's not even close to over in that situation. Here are some very realistic scenarios for a Trump win without winning Pennsylvania.
First, Trump must win Ohio (-3.8), Florida (-2.7) and North Carolina (-0.5), which he's very close in those states. Next, he must win Nevada and Arizona. He's currently ahead in Arizona in the RCP by 2.5 points, but he's trailing in Nevada by 2.3 points. Last, he must win in Iowa in and Wisconsin. He is only behind by 1.5 points in Iowa, but by 4 points in Wisconsin. I threw out the poll that RCP is including in Wisconsin from June because that's a really old poll. So he's only down four according to an average of recent Marquette and Monmouth polls there.
Combining those state averages where he trails (OH, FL, NC, NV, IA, WI), Trump is only trailing by 2.5 points. He is trailing nationally by 3.9 points according to the four-way race polls, 1.5 points higher than this state average. This gap is significant because it demonstrates that Hillary's massive leads in California and the big cities could be giving her a national lead that may not produce an electoral victory.
The Ref's Index - Clinton +2.5 Points
Trump does not need Pennsylvania
So what if Trump loses one of these states? Still not a problem, depending on which state he loses and if he wins all five electoral votes out of Nebraska, which I assume he will. Trump can lose Iowa, Nevada or Wisconsin, but only one of those, and still win the presidency with 269 electoral votes. This is true because the Republicans are almost certain to retain the House, and the House breaks an electoral tie. Unless Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg have serious dirt on Speaker Ryan, Trump would win in that scenario.
By winning all the states in this group,Trump ends up at 275 electoral votes. So he can lose Iowa's six electoral votes and win with 269. He can lose Nevada's six electoral votes and still win with 269. If he loses Wisconsin, he would need to win in New Hampshire, which is quite realistic, and still win with 269 electoral votes. New Hampshire's RCP average is pretty sketchy right now. It contains two polls that came during Clinton's bounce, a bounce we know is gone now based on the national numbers, but also has a poll with the two nearly tied just before the conventions. I suspect the race is probably close to tied again, but we need to new polling in that state to know.
So if Trump can close the gap in the national four-way race down to within one point behind Hillary, this analysis suggests he's got a chance because this index of battleground states is a point and a half closer than that national average. Pennsylvania just doesn't matter nearly as much as we think it does. There was an Emerson poll showing him only down three points in Pennsylvania, however, so don't count him out there just yet. But if he wins Pennsylvania, it would just be the icing on the cake. Follow my new Twitter account for daily tracking of the states that really matter!