That's no longer the case. On Sunday, two new polls — one from The Washington Post and ABC News, and another from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal — showed Trump trailing in national polling against Hillary Clinton. And so Trump went to his other go-to script: bashing the polls on Twitter.
First, he argued that the Post-ABC poll, which showed him down 12 points, oversampled Democrats.
(Huffington Post's Pollster has a good explanation of how the Post-ABC poll and the NBC-WSJ polls differed.)
Then, he called it a "dirty" poll (adding the quotes himself for some reason), stating that even the pollsters "admit" that more Democrats were polled. Which isn't really an admission so much as it is an articulation of methodology; the main Post story about the poll states explicitly that more respondents identified themselves as Democrats. We also noted that this "accounts for less than half of Clinton’s gains in the new poll." After all, only 77 percent of Republicans picked Trump this month in the head-to-head matchup with Clinton. Last month, 85 percent of them did.
Let's set aside Trump's petulance about this particular poll. His goal, as is always the goal when he's confronted with bad news, was to undermine confidence in the result. But by doing so, he twice insisted that "other polls were good."
And those other polls all show Trump losing.
In only three live-dial polls since the beginning of the year has Trump not trailed Clinton. Two of those polls, in January and May, were from Fox News. The other was the Post-ABC poll that was released in May. (At that point, Trump tweeted praise for the Fox poll, but not ours. Sad! In December, though, he called our poll "phenomenal.") If Trump's "other polls" refers only to those polls taken in June, there have been 19 (online and live-dial). Trump leads in none. He trails by an average of 6.1 points. Excluding the Post-ABC poll, the average is 5.7 points.
Those polls, in Trump's words, are good. One is reminded of his tweet from the middle of the month, after a slew of stories about how his campaign was stumbling. "THANK YOU!" he tweeted, and highlighted a recent poll from Gravis Marketing — showing him trailing by 2 points.
No longer is Trump trumpeting his poll leads. Now he's embracing a close race.
Of course, he'd be better served — as would we all — by focusing on state contests. The general election is a national one, of course, but as we are reminded every four years, it's the results in a handful of swing states that actually make the difference. And in those swing state polls, Trump is doing much better than he is nationally.
Last week, Quinnipiac University released its latest round of polls from Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. In Florida, Clinton's up big. In Ohio and Pennsylvania, she isn't. In those two Rust Belt states, Clinton and Trump are essentially tied. Florida is worth 29 electoral votes — but Ohio and Pennsylvania together are worth 38. Obama won all three states in 2012; flipping Ohio and Pennsylvania would have dropped his electoral vote lead from 126 to 50. (Game it out for yourself here!)
An even better idea for Trump — and, once again, all of us — would be to step back a bit from polling entirely. At this point in 2004, 2008 and 2012, 134 days out, the person leading in the RealClearPolitics polling average ended up winning, but in each of those contests, the eventual winner would lose his lead again before Election Day.
We'll close with this tweet from Trump, a retweet from a supporter.
The new polls, including our own, aren't fake, regardless of their showing Trump behind. But maybe that's what the tweeter slyly meant. After all, the polls in the primary showed Trump winning, which he did.