Trump Banks on New Hampshire to Clinch Win
Donald Trump will wrap up his presidential bid where it all began: New Hampshire. The GOP nominee will host his final rally before Election Day in Manchester, where he held his first official campaign event and where he claimed his first primary state victory.
But Trump’s decision to end in the Granite State may be more than nostalgia and symbolism. Polls are tightening in New Hampshire and show Trump within striking distance of Hillary Clinton, whose lead there has been cut in half over the last week in the RealClearPolitics polling average.
The state has just four electoral votes -- but if Trump could run the table in other battleground states, those votes could be mighty.
Such a scenario would be a big stretch for Trump. He would have to win North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Utah. But under those circumstances, current RCP polling averages show Clinton would have 273 electoral votes to Trump’s 265. And if New Hampshire went Republican, the race would be tied 269 to 269.
But Trump is looking at an extremely narrow path to the presidency in which each electoral vote will make a difference. And while he is hoping to penetrate blue states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, new polling there shows an even greater climb. In nearly every circumstance, New Hampshire is vital.
“New Hampshire always seems to finds a way to be influential in presidential politics,” former Gov. John H. Sununu, a Republican whose son is now running for governor there, told RCP.
Last week, Clinton led in the RCP average by eight points. The state is still hers to lose -- her lead is 0.8 points – but Republicans are seeing their candidate quickly make up ground.
A GOP source in the state shared internal polling with RCP that showed Trump gaining necessary ground within his party. Three weeks ago, he lagged behind by 11 points, with 69 percent of support from Republicans. Two weeks ago, he was behind by four points, with 76 percent of GOPers backing him. Last week, Clinton led by three points, with 84 percent of Republicans supporting their nominee.
And a WBUR poll released Thursday morning showed Trump inching ahead by a single percentage point.
“Republicans are coming home,” the source said, noting that Trump’s numbers improved as he was in the news less and the spotlight remained on Clinton. New Hampshire does not have early voting, so the final days of a campaign can be particularly influential.
Strategists in the state say Clinton is still likely to win New Hampshire but that the growing GOP movement is welcome news to Sen. Kelly Ayotte and some other Republicans running down the ballot. Ayotte’s re-election race, in which she is currently tied with Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, could determine the balance of power in the upper chamber next year.
“I don't think he can win any more voters. The question is whether [Clinton] has so thoroughly soured her soft voters,” says Ryan Williams, a GOP strategist and veteran of New Hampshire campaigns, including Mitt Romney’s in 2012.
Romney also spent the eve of Election Day in New Hampshire, campaigning at the same venue Trump will appear Monday night: Southern New Hampshire University. Obama led by 2 points on Election Day and won the state by 5.6 points.
Democrats believe their ground effort will overcome any slides in the polls, and often point to their united ticket as a sign of strength. Ayotte rescinded her endorsement of Trump last month after news of the now infamous “Access Hollywood” tape. Clinton campaigned with Hassan and progressive star Elizabeth Warren in the state last week. Bernie Sanders, who won New Hampshire by 22 points in the Democratic primary, has swing through the state several times since then, endorsing Clinton there this summer. On Tuesday, he campaigned for her on two college campuses.
“We have a genuinely united ticket working together, and that’s going to make a world of difference for the entire ticket,” New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley told RCP last week.
But amid tightening polls, the Clinton campaign isn’t taking any electoral votes for granted. The campaign announced it would send President Obama, its top surrogate, to rally on behalf of Clinton in Durham, N.H., on Monday.
A WBUR-University of New Hampshire poll released Tuesday found Clinton leading Trump among likely voters, 46 percent to 39 percent, with 6 percent going to Gary Johnson and 1 percent to Jill Stein. The survey, taken last Wednesday through Sunday, found 5 percent undecided. In mid-October, the same poll showed Clinton with a 15-point lead.
The poll found Clinton getting more support from Democrats (89 percent) than Trump did with Republicans (78 percent). But Trump led among independents by 4 points. Still, 60 percent of New Hampshire voters think Clinton will win the election, according to the poll. And Trump is slightly more unpopular there than Clinton.
In addition to hosting his final event in Manchester next week, Trump will travel to Atkinson, N.H., for a rally on Friday afternoon. Daughter Ivanka Trump will make two stops in the state on Thursday, in Hollis and Nashua.
Republicans in the state think Trump will be able to capitalize on the harsh spotlight Clinton has been in following news that the FBI would be examining more emails possibly connected to her private server and the projected increase in ObamaCare premiums.
“I think what happened last Friday reminded people of the association of corruption with the Clintons and Democratic Party,” Sununu said. Still, he wasn’t ready to make a prediction about who would win the state.
“This is a turnout election more than any election I’ve ever seen,” he said.