Top battleground states Ohio, Florida and Nevada continue to be hotly contested in the 2016 presidential campaign, with both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton placing considerable emphasis on capturing the combined 53 electoral college votes. But with more Republicans joining the Never Trump movement and the Trump campaign dealing with sexual abuse allegations, there appears to be a stronger chance that traditional right-leaning states could possibly shift towards Clinton on Nov. 8.
With Clinton leading Trump 46 percent to 40 percent among likely voters in a recent NBC News/SurveyMonkey Weekly Election Tracking Poll, there could be increasing fear in Trump's camp that the Republican nominee is in danger of losing in an electoral landslide if he doesn't maintain his lead in states that voted for Sen. John McCain in 2008 and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.
State polls in Arizona, Indiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas all show increasingly tight races. The states represent 86 total electoral votes.
As Trump and Clinton battle for these states, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein loom in the background. Neither Johnson nor Stein has a reasonable chance of winning the election, but they both can play "spoiler." In the most recent polls, Johnson has polled as high as 8 percent while Stein polls above 2 percent.
While polls in Iowa, a state that voted for President Barack Obama twice, lean towards Trump, it will be nearly impossible for Trump to receive the 270 electoral votes needed without maintaining the following states.
Arizona (11 electoral votes)
The Grand Canyon state has looked increasingly competitive, which may have something to do with 21.5 percent of eligible voters being Latino. In an Emerson College poll released on Oct. 6, Clinton owned a slim 44 percent to 42 percent lead over Trump, with Johnson at 9 percent, but with 6 percent undecided. In the last four elections, the Democrat has lost with roughly 45 percent of the vote. If Clinton can makes more of a push in the coming weeks—the campaign is investing $2 million in the state—there's a strong chance she overtakes Trump. Johnson, who was governor of nearby New Mexico, may play spoiler to Trump's bid.
Prediction: Clinton in a very close race
Indiana (11 electoral votes)
In 2008, President Obama shocked many political pundits in edging McCain by 28,391 votes, but Romney came back to claim the Hoosier state in 2012. Trump leads Clinton 45 percent to 41 percent, according to a Monmouth University poll, and has a 43 percent to 38 percent edge in a WTHR/Howey Politics poll. It wouldn't be surprising if Clinton inches closer to a victory in the coming days since she's spending additional campaign funds on Democrat governor and U.S. senate candidates that are leading their Republican opponents. Trump, who famously won the endorsement of prominent former Indiana Hoosiers basketball coach Bobby Knight, can't afford to take Clinton's push lightly.
Prediction: Trump in a very close race
Mississippi (6 electoral votes)
You've gotta be kidding, right? McCain and Romney won Mississippi in a landslide, but a YouGov poll had Trump leading by just 3.6 percentage points, a far more narrow margin than a Magellan Strategies poll in August that had Trump comfortably ahead by 13 points. Clinton hasn't done much campaigning here, and it seems unlikely she can pull off an upset.
North Carolina (15 electoral votes)
Trump has trailed in all of the recent polls, and this is a state that recently changed its voting laws. Like Indiana, Obama edged McCain in 2008, but Romney reclaimed it in 2012. Trump has pumped money into the Tar Heel state so he apparently understands its importance. Johnson can easily play spoiler here, as he polled as high as 9 percent.
South Carolina (9 electoral votes)
A recent Winthrop University poll showed Trump with a 42 percent to 38 percent lead over Clinton, and a Public Policy poll in August had Trump leading 41 percent to 38 percent. Still, it will take a huge push from Clinton to overcome Trump in among the most ardent red states. The last time a Democrat won this state was Jimmy Carter in 1976.
Texas (34 electoral votes)
Trump has virtually no chance of winning the election if he loses Texas. Trump's poll numbers have trended downwards, with a recent University of Houston survey showing the billionaire businessman narrowly leading Clinton 41 percent to 38 percent. An Emerson University poll in September had Trump up by 6 percentage points, but with Johnson polling at 10 percent and Stein at 6 percent. However, both third-party candidates have seen their numbers slide. More than 28 percent of eligible voters are Latino, which could spell trouble for Trump.
Romney defeated Obama 57 percent to 41 percent. It would be a historical upset for Clinton to win Texas, and it seems unlikely to happen.