While most media publications have focused on national-poll numbers, most knowledgeable election observers know to pay closer attention to the state polls, with particular emphasis on battleground states. The 270 electoral-college votes needed to secure the White House will come in the form of winning tightly contested states, not the popular vote.
There is also heightened attention on third-party candidates in an election year that has both Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump receiving historically high unfavorable ratings. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein are polling at higher numbers in 2016 than in 2012 and one can perhaps play "spoiler" on Nov. 8.
The problem with state polls is sometimes they don't include third-party candidates and the margin of error can be wide. Also, one poll can often vary greatly from another poll. Fivethirtyeight.com ranked the polls in August.
At the moment, this is clearly a two-party race. Clinton currently has 164 electoral votes firmly secured while Trump has 106, while both Johnson and Stein have almost no chance of winning a state.
Many swing states are still competitive, but here's a look at five that have a combined value of 77 electoral votes. (All polls are for states' likely voters)
Colorado (9 electoral votes)
Two recent polls show differing results. Clinton leads Trump, 44 percent to 35 percent, in a two-way race, according to Colorado Mesa University-Rocky Mountain PBS poll. Clinton’s lead narrows to 41 percent to 34 percent, with Johnson at 12 percent and Stein receiving three percent in a four-way race.
A Quinnipiac University poll had Clinton and Trump even at 47 percent in a two-way race. In a four-way race, Clinton received 44 percent, Trump came in at 42 percent, while Johnson received 10 percent and Stein received two percent.
2012 Results: Obama 51.49%, Romney 46.13%
Florida (29 electoral votes)
It's a case of two differing polls for Johnson. A Monmouth University poll has Clinton leading Trump, 46 percent to 41, with the third-party candidates lagging behind. Johnson received just six percent, while Stein drew just one percent.
A Suffolk University poll had Trump leading Clinton, 45 percent to 43.6 percent. Johnson received just three percent, while Stein came in a 0.6 percent.
2012 Results: Obama 50.01%, Romney 49.13%
Nevada (6 electoral votes)
Trump leads Clinton, 43-40 percent, with Johnson at eight percent, in Fox News poll. Stein is not on the Nevada ballot.
In a KTNV/Rasmussen poll, Trump leads Clinton 42 to 39 percent, with Johnson doing better than the Fox News poll, at 11 percent.
2012 Results: Obama 52.36%, Romney 45.68%
North Carolina (15 electoral votes)
This might be the most contentious state when it comes to polling, with three differing figures, and with Stein not on the ballot. Fox News had Trump leading Clinton, 47-42, in a two-way battle. In a three-way race, Trump leads at 45 percent, followed by Clinton at 40 percent and Johnson at six percent.
Public Policy polling (PPP) had Trump leading Clinton 45 to 43, with Johnson at six percent in a three-party race. Between just Trump and Clinton, it's a tie at 47 percent.
Clinton and Trump are tied at 41 percent, with Johnson at 11 percent in a three-way race, according to a New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll. In a two-way race, Clinton leads Trump 45 percent to 43 percent.
2012 Results: Obama 48.35%, Romney 50.39%
Ohio (18 electoral votes)
Fox News has Trump leading Clinton, 42-37 percent, with Johnson at six percent and Stein at two percent.
In a five-candidate Suffolk University poll, Trump leads Clinton, 41.6 to 38.6 percent. Johnson receives just 3.8 percent, while Stein receives 1.4 percent. Little-known independent candidate Richard Duncan, a real estate agent and bar owner, draws 0.8 percent.
2012 Results: Obama 50.67%, Romney 47.69%
(In some levity, "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" recently provided an insightful and humorous take on the role of third-party candidates and the general election.)