Hillary Clinton’s victory path: Polls show a lead in some key states, even as conflicting messages come from Florida

A new poll shows Donald Trump already losing nearly 30 percent of Republican early voters in the Sunshine State

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published November 2, 2016 7:40PM (EDT)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at an early voting brunch at Fado Irish Pub in Miami, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016.  (AP)
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton arrives at an early voting brunch at Fado Irish Pub in Miami, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016. (AP)

It's about a week from Election Day and all indications are that the race for the White House is tightening, but that doesn't mean Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton should start to panic.

After James Comey, the FBI's director, delivered on Friday what was initially thought to be a blockbuster revelation but turned out to be a dud, new polling has shown the Democratic presidential nominee as underperforming in several states (like Florida and North Carolina) that had been touted as her safe wall.

Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight predicted on Wednesday that Clinton has a 68.9 percent chance of winning the election — down from the 82 percent forecast on Friday morning before Comey's letter to congressional leaders was revealed by Republicans. His letter indicated the FBI is reviewing a new trove of emails that could be pertinent to a now closed investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server. FiveThirtyEight 's statistical model found that the battleground state of Florida is now the most competitive state and most likely to tip the election.

Florida, the biggest and most valuable prize among the battleground states, isn't necessarily a must-win for Clinton on her path to an Electoral College victory. But if Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump doesn't win the Sunshine State, his plans for the White House seat would be destroyed. New early-vote numbers for the state indicate that the Democratic presidential nominee may be getting a boost from a most unlikely source: Republican voters.

Nearly 30 percent of the Republicans who have already voted in Florida cast their ballots for the former secretary of state, according to a new poll released late on Tuesday. Of all Florida early voters in the TargetSmart/William & Mary poll, Clinton led Republican rival Donald Trump 55 percent to 37 percent, while 28 percent of Republicans voted for Clinton.

MSNBC first reported the early-vote numbers on Tuesday night:

But it's not all bad news for Trump.

As the GOP nominee is set to crisscross the crucial battleground state of Florida on Wednesday — with a trio of campaign stops in Pensacola, Orlando and Miami — the Real Clear Politics average of polls in the state has Trump leading Clinton 45.9 percent to 45.1 percent — a slim 0.8-point margin — for the first time in six weeks. Trump's running mate Mike Pence recently blitzed the state, with campaign stops in three central Florida cities on Monday.

Democrats are faring worse in early voting in Florida than they did four years ago even as Clinton gains support from unlikely allies.

In 2012 while Democrats outpaced Republicans in total Florida ballots cast before Election Day by more than 10,000, Republicans have amassed a lead of about 9,000 this year. As of Monday morning about 40.5 percent of the 3.7 million absentee and in-person early ballots had been cast by Republicans, and 40.2 percent by Democrats, Politico reported.

The discrepancy between Clinton's early-vote performance in 2016 and President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012 can be attributed to African-American turnout in the state. As the Tampa Bay Times noted, black voters accounted for 22 percent of the votes cast before Election Day in 2012, but only 15 percent so far this year.

Still, Florida and its 29 electoral votes may not even matter because other states that may firmly be in Clinton's corner.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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