Texas! Utah! Oh, and Alaska, where a poll shows Clinton within 3 points. Alaska has voted for the Democrat precisely once, in the Lyndon Johnson rout of 1964.
There is one scenario under which Clinton wins Texas, Utah and/or Alaska: A rout of the sort we haven't seen since 1984. That year, Ronald Reagan beat the tar out of Walter Mondale, winning the election nationally by 18 percentage points. Clinton clearly doesn't need a lead that big to take these states, but she'd need a pretty big lead. Right now she's up about 7 points in the polling average compiled by RealClearPolitics, one of her biggest leads of the general election and one big enough to bring her within shouting distance in deep-red states (apparently). But the past leads have given way to closer races once again, as the thing that drove Trump's expanded base of support away — e.g., the convention — fades in importance. She's got a bump now from the first debate, probably accentuated by that hot-mic tape from 2005. It's not clear whether that lead will stick around.
So let's look instead at states that have recent polling and are closer, your classic swing states. On Thursday, NBC and the Wall Street Journal released new polls in Ohio and North Carolina showing Clinton trailing by 1 in the Buckeye State and up by 4 in North Carolina. (In 2012, Obama won the former and lost the latter.) A new poll in New Hampshire has Clinton up 7 points.
All of those results are in line with other recent polls. The pattern of national polling over the past month is that Trump has lost support while Clinton has seen a slight gain — meaning that Clinton's lead has grown.
Since the first debate, Ohio and North Carolina have generally moved toward Clinton. Florida started in that direction before the debate. New Hampshire was never that close, any more than was Georgia. (A new poll in that state has Trump up 6.) (Pennsylvania briefly looked fairly close; it no longer does.)
Could Clinton win Texas and Utah but not Ohio? If this year has taught us anything, it's that we should not be surprised by much.
But: no. The more likely scenario, it seems, is the one that currently presents itself. Battles in battleground states and deep-red and -blue states voting the way they usually do.
The challenge for Trump, as it has always been, is not that Utah is close. It's that he has to win nearly all of the close states to be elected president — and that, even before the first debate, seemed unlikely. The national polling and the state polling have shifted against him, making that even less likely. If the election were held right this minute, Clinton would win by 144 electoral votes.
Trump needs to win Ohio, North Carolina and Florida to win the election if nothing else changes. Texas and Utah are unexpectedly close, but Trump is still winning. It's the close states he's losing — and very much needs — that matter.