The electoral map heading into the fall presidential election continues to favor Hillary Clinton even as Donald Trump appears to have successfully turned Pennsylvania into a battleground.
According to our new Fix ratings, Clinton has 201 electoral votes solidly for her while Trump has 158. But that underestimates Clinton's strengths as she holds the lead in all seven of our toss-up states, according to Real Clear Politics polling averages in each of one.
Here's what our current map looks like with states shaded gray considered either lean Republican, lean Democratic or toss-up. (You can make your own map!):
We have made two major changes since the last time we handicapped the map.
The big one is moving Pennsylvania from lean Democratic to toss-up. It now appears — after a series of credible polls — that the Keystone State is genuinely competitive in 2016. The RCP average gives Clinton a 2.3 percentage point lead, an edge roughly equivalent to her advantage in places like Ohio and New Hampshire, which we rate as toss-ups.
If there's any state where Trump can appeal to and turn out large numbers of white working class men dissatisfied with the national Democratic Party (and things in general) it should be Pennsylvania. Outside of Philadelphia in the east and Pittsburgh in the west, the state is strikingly conservative minded, rural and open to Trump's message of economic populism.
Past history works against Trump and Republicans, however. No Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988 has carried Pennsylvania. And it feels as if every four years Republicans talk a big game about making the state competitive — focused on the "T" outside of Pittsburgh and Philly — but always come up just short. George W. Bush got 46 percent and 48 percent there in his 2000 and 2004 races, respectively. John McCain took only 44 percent in 2008 but Mitt Romney bumped back up to 47 percent in 2012.
Those numbers suggest the floor for a Republican in Pennsylvania is the mid 40s. The question is whether Trump can get from 46 to 50, a bridge that none of the recent Republican presidential nominees has been able to cross.
The other change we are making is moving Wisconsin from toss-up to lean Democratic. Polling in Wisconsin gives Clinton a seven-plus point edge over Trump, suggesting that his successes in turning Pennsylvania into a battleground are not carrying through to the entire Rust Belt/Upper Midwest.
The electorate in Wisconsin is among the most polarized in the country following the attempted recall election and subsequent reelection of Gov. Scott Walker (R) over the past few years. But, it is also a state that has a deep tradition of voting for Democrats at the presidential level. You have to go all the way back to Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection race to find the last time a Republican carried the Badger State. And, Trump's brashness about, well, everything, may not sit well with the more sedate Wisconsin ethos.
With those two moves, our list of competitive states looks like this.
Lean Republican (33 electoral votes)
New Hampshire (4)
North Carolina (15)
Lean Democratic (41)