(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Opinion writer

A new batch of Quinnipiac polls, released moments ago, finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by five points in Florida, three points in North Carolina, and four points in Pennsylvania, with Trump ahead by five points in Ohio.

These polls, combined with a new Monmouth poll that was released earlier and found Clinton up 11 points in Colorado, suggest that the state polls may be starting to confirm what we’ve already seen in the national polls: Clinton is enjoying a bounce from the debate.

The new Quinnipiac polls find Clinton leading Trump among likely voters in the four-way races by 46-41 in Florida; by 46-43 in North Carolina; and by 45-41 in Pennsylvania. Trump leads by 47-42 in Ohio. In the head-to-head matchups, Clinton leads by 49-44 in Florida; 49-46 in North Carolina; and 48-43 in Pennsylvania, with Trump up by 49-46 in Ohio. In all four states, voters say by large margins that Clinton won the debate.

In Quinnipiac’s last polling of these states in early September, the two candidates were tied in Florida, while the margins in North Carolina and Pennsylvania were very close to what they are today, and Trump’s lead was a bit smaller in Ohio. So according to these polls, Clinton has expanded in Florida, while in the Monmouth poll, Clinton now leads in Colorado by 11 points, 49-38. The polling averages have Clinton up by small margins in Florida and North Carolina and by a somewhat larger one in Pennsylvania, while Trump is a hair ahead in Ohio.

Last week, Nate Silver noted that if Clinton is leading by around three-to-five points nationally, as the national polls are showing, then his model dictates that the state polls should start to show the following:

  • A 4- to 8-point lead in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Colorado, Virginia, Wisconsin and Michigan, which have been slightly bluer than the national average this cycle.
  • Somewhere between a tie and a 4-point Clinton lead in Florida and North Carolina, which have been slightly redder than the national average.
  • A roughly tied race in Ohio and Iowa, which have been significantly redder than the national average.

Today’s Quinnipiac and Monmouth polls seem consistent with that in Pennsylvania and Colorado. Meanwhile, a new Wason Center for Public Policy poll today found Clinton up seven in Virginia. Clinton has been ahead in numerous other swing state polls taken since the debate.

As this blog and many others have pointed out, if Clinton can hold Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Colorado, then she only needs one more out of many swing states — New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Iowa, North Carolina, or Florida — barring any surprise Trump win in a blue-leaning state like Wisconsin. That is currently looking very plausible.

But perhaps the most noteworthy story here is that Clinton appears to be edging ahead in Florida. The major models (FiveThirtyEight and the Upshot) both have her narrowly favored there, as do the Real Clear Politics and HuffPollster averages of polls in the state.

The story the post-debate polling seems to be telling is that Clinton is now showing a real bounce in some of the more diverse states — Florida, Virginia, and Colorado — while her struggles continue in relatively whiter states in the industrial Midwest, such as Ohio and Iowa. Her lead is smaller than it should be in Pennsylvania. All this seems consistent with Clinton’s continued difficulties among non-college white voters, and also with the notion that this weakness may be offset by her success with college educated whites, and Trump’s abysmal weakness with nonwhites.

But if Clinton can win Florida, she can tank horribly in the Rust Belt and still win, because Florida has 29 electoral votes.

As Harry Enten points out, if Clinton can win Florida, that makes Trump’s path almost entirely impossible:

Let’s say, for example, that on Election Day, Clinton underperforms with white voters without college degrees even more so than she is doing now. Her support would collapse in the Midwest, and her troubles in Maine would likely bleed over into New Hampshire. But Florida is more diverse, with one of the largest groups of Latino voters of any battleground state and a sizable African-American population. So, in this scenario, the nonwhite vote in Florida might allow Clinton to hold onto the state even if she were to lose Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin. And that’s a winning map.

If Clinton wins Florida, Michigan and New Hampshire, she can afford to lose Pennsylvania, where she’s held a lead even as she’s trailed Trump in next-door Ohio.

Indeed, winning Florida opens up so many electoral paths for Clinton that it’s probably a must-win for Trump.

There is still a lifetime to go — 36 days! So things can of course shift again. But things are looking better for Clinton than they were just before the debates, and it’s now looking like the mass freakout over the pre-debate poll tightening might have been a bit premature.