Just over the past week, Clinton has come within single digits in public polls of Missouri (minus two), Georgia (minus four), Texas (minus six), Kansas (minus five), Arizona (minus two) and South Carolina (minus two). Another internal Democratic poll in Indiana had Clinton tied with her Republican rival.
Only one of those states has gone Democratic since 1996 — Indiana in 2008. In the last nine presidential elections, these states have gone Republican a grand total of 58 out of 63 times.
Trump's current deficits in Pennsylvania (minus 9), Virginia (minus 10), New Hampshire (minus 8), Wisconsin (minus 9) and Colorado (minus 11) are bigger than all of those margins, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls. And the most recent polls in Florida, North Carolina and New Hampshire all show him down by nine points — again, more than Clinton trails by in any of the red states.
So does this mean that Clinton is about to put such states as Texas and Kansas in play? Probably not, for a few reasons.
First, they would more likely be the icing on her 2016 victory cake than the deciding factors. Clinton would be much better served making sure her big leads hold up in Colorado, Florida and Virginia — states that will deliver her margin of victory in the electoral college and that she'd love to be no-doubters — than she would be in spending her time claiming new territory.
Her team has signaled they might try to compete for Arizona and Georgia, but those were states that were pretty clearly moving in the direction of becoming swing states, so they aren't such Hail Marys. Missouri and Indiana are also possibilities and have been competitive states in recent elections, though they've been trending away from Democrats in recent years. Plus, investing in actually winning a state like Texas or even long-abandoned South Carolina would be hugely expensive.
Second, Clinton polling this close in red states and actually winning red states are two very different things. We live in a polarized country in which it's virtually unimaginable for Democrats to win in certain red states and virtually unimaginable for Republicans to win in certain blue states. They may get to 45 percent of the vote, but getting that last 5 percent or so and getting close to a majority of the vote — the usual threshold for victory — is another matter entirely.
It's also worth noting here that data in many of these red states are very sparse, in large part because they aren't often competitive. Some of these polls are of the automated variety, and we'll have to see how much more quality data we get before determining whether Clinton actually has a legitimate shot in a state like Kansas.
But the trend is clear. In fact, if you go back even further, the most recent data we have also shows Clinton within single digits in red states such as Tennessee, Mississippi and Alaska. None are recent enough to mean much now, but the data we do have almost universally show the same thing: Clinton is much closer than you might expect in a handful of red states. In fact, in most swing states, she's closer than Trump.