What Donald Trump is doing on the campaign trail

MANCHESTER, NH - NOVEMBER 7: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign event at SNHU Arena in Manchester, NH on Monday November 07, 2016. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

The New York Times published a great piece Sunday headlined "Electoral Map Gives Donald Trump Few Places to Go." Here's the crux of the article, which was written by the terrific Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman:

Even as Mr. Trump has ticked up in national polls in recent weeks, senior Republicans say his path to the 270 Electoral College votes needed for election has remained narrow — and may have grown even more precarious. It now looks exceedingly difficult for him to assemble even the barest Electoral College majority without beating Hillary Clinton in a trifecta of the biggest swing states: Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

That's right.

But there are two points worth adding to that analysis: 1) No Republican would have anything but a narrow path to the presidency in 2016 and 2) Trump's path — as outlined by the Times — to get to 270 electoral votes and the White House  isn't implausible. At all.

Let's take the first point, um, first.

The Democratic presidential nominee has won 18 states plus the District of Columbia in each of the six elections between 1992 and 2012. Those states have 242 electoral votes combined.   The GOP nominee has won 13 states in every one of those six elections; those states total 102 electoral votes. That so-called "Blue Wall" has almost nothing to do with Trump. So, if Ted Cruz, for example, were the Republican nominee in 2016, his path would be similarly narrow to the one Trump now faces.  Could Cruz — or Marco Rubio — be more competitive in, say, Virginia or Colorado than Trump looks to be? Sure. But would Cruz be as competitive in Pennsylvania as Trump is today? Almost certainly not.

Now to the second point.  For all of the worry about the Blue Wall and Trump's historically poor numbers among Hispanics, the path laid out by the Times for Trump to get to 270 electoral votes is entirely plausible. Here's what the electoral map looks like if Trump wins those three states and nothing else changes from the 2012 election. (You can make your own maps with our cool tool!)

That map gives Trump 273 electoral votes to Clinton's 265.  He wins.  It's not crazy, right?

Now, Florida and Ohio have gone for President Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections. And no Republican has carried Pennsylvania at the presidential level since George H.W. Bush in 1988.  That said, polling — at least as of today — suggests that Trump is very much in the game against Clinton in all three.

According to the indispensable RealClearPolitics, Florida (Trump with a .3 point average lead) and Ohio (Clinton +.8) are as close as close gets. Pennsylvania is more problematic for Trump as Clinton holds a 4.4 point lead in the poll of polls in the state.

Of course, the map above assumes that Trump holds all of the states Romney won — including North Carolina (a state Obama won in 2008) and Utah (a state where polling suggests Trump has surprisingly major problems) among others.

But the map above is not pie-in-the-sky for Trump and Republicans. Not even close.

Yes, Trump's path is narrow. But given all of the mistakes he has made in this campaign, the fact that a credible path to 270 electoral votes still exists for Trump is somewhat mind-boggling. Look at the map above though — and prepare to have your mind boggled.

GOP nominee Donald Trump tells supporters in Columbus, Ohio, that he worries the Nov. 8 election "is going to be rigged." (The Washington Post)