Donald Trump always had a narrow path to the presidency. The Democrat electoral base comes with heavily populated urban states that give a natural advantage to any Democrat candidate. Any Republican must nearly run the table of the traditional swing states. Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia, with their large numbers of electoral votes, are must-win states for any Republican who hopes to become president. Florida, with 29 electoral votes, is the big prize among the swing states.
Throughout the spring and summer, Donald Trump hotly contested Florida. In the Republican primary, Trump beat local candidate Senator Marco Rubio by nearly 20 points. According to New York Times coverage of the results, Trump won every county in Florida with the exception of one. Miami-Dade County went to Rubio.
Throughout the summer, Trump kept the race for Florida’s electoral votes in a deadlock. Although he never firmly established a lead in the state, Trump kept the race in a statistical tie. For about a month, from the middle of August to the middle of September, Real Clear Politics shows that Trump may have held a small lead.
Now it looks as though Clinton has surged and Trump is firmly behind in the state that can be considered home territory for him since it is the location of his famous Mar-a-Lago mansion. For over a month, since the beginning of September, Donald Trump has led in only two of 17 polls listed by Real Clear Politics. Both of these polls showed a one-point lead, which is a statistical tie, due to the polling margin of error. The last time Trump led in Florida was an Emerson poll that was taken from October 2-4, before the debates and the release of the “Access Hollywood” sex tape.
In contrast, Hillary Clinton not only is winning the polls in this must-win state, but her advantage seems to be very consistent across a large number of polls. Since Florida is such an important state in presidential elections, it is polled frequently and by many different organizations. Every poll in the past three weeks shows at least a three-point advantage for Clinton. While three points is within the margin of error for most polls, the fact that all the polls are consistent gives them credibility as a whole.
Florida is always a close state and this year will be no exception. Twice, in 2000 and 2012, the difference between victory and defeat was less than one percent according to archived results on 270ToWin.com. The only election in the past 20 years where Florida was won by more than five points was 1996 when Bill Clinton (D) beat Bob Dole (R) and Ross Perot (I). Perot pulled votes from Dole and allowed Clinton to win by six points.
This year, third party candidates seem to make little difference. Libertarian Gary Johnson is on the ballot, but independent candidate Evan McMullin was denied a spot on the ballot as the candidate of the Independent Party of Florida by the Republican administration of Gov. Rick Scott. Politico noted that many consider the move to deny ballot access to McMullin illegal and unconstitutional, but it almost certainly was beneficial to Trump. Nevertheless, polls conducted with and without Johnson indicate that he has little effect on the race.
Another Florida candidate is having better luck against his Democrat challenger. Marco Rubio, the man that Donald Trump beat by almost 20 points in the primary, is now polling better than Trump. Although Rubio has lost some ground in recent weeks, perhaps due to fallout from the Trump scandals, he maintains a two-point lead over Democrat Patrick Murphy. After Rubio beat Murphy handily in their debate, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled funding from Murphy’s campaign, which should help Rubio going forward.
As Trump’s hopes for Florida fade, his chances for winning the White House become almost nonexistent. Without Florida’s 29 electoral votes, there is no path to victory for Trump. This makes Senate races like Rubio’s all the more important for maintaining the ability resist the liberal agenda of President Hillary Clinton.