If the polls closed right at this moment (which they won't) and if the results in each state perfectly mirrored the current RealClearPolitics average of polls in each state (which they won't), Hillary Clinton would be elected president by an electoral college margin of 8 votes. From her high in the polls a week or two ago, Clinton's leads in a number of critical battleground states have collapsed or evaporated entirely. The election could come down to one state with four electoral college votes that flips from Clinton to Donald Trump and, boom: A 269-269 electoral college tie, and a vote by the House of Representatives to decide on the next president — who, given the composition of the House, would almost certainly be Donald Trump.
On Thursday, that Clinton state with four electoral college votes raised its hand. Hi, New Hampshire! Two new polls, from Boston Globe-Suffolk University and WBUR-MassInc put the Granite State at a virtual tie, with the continuing trend in the state away from Clinton. That's Trump's 269th electoral college vote. Or, really, his 270th: Polling in Maine's second congressional district (which allocates one electoral college vote separately) has Trump in the lead. He wins the states he holds now and that one in Maine? President Donald Trump.
The trend is stark for Team Clinton. As the national race has tightened, so has the race in a number of big states. (Lines on the charts below are scaled to the number of electoral votes in each state.) Even if New Hampshire is a tie now, notice where the trend is going.
Gone are the days when we talked about Clinton maybe winning Georgia or Texas or Trump watching Utah go third-party. (A new poll there shows him with a healthy lead.)
There have been moments in the past when Trump's closed the gap in models put together by sites like FiveThirtyEight and the New York Times. But those moments were usually with a lot more runway between the moment and Election Day. There were still conventions or debates. This moment is different.
Some important caveats to the points above:
— The Trump lead in Nevada is iffy. Journalist Jon Ralston, who knows the state well, has been tracking the early vote in the state. He's seen big advantages in Democratic turnout so far (something we noted over the weekend). Those margins, he figures, give Clinton a hard-to-beat lead in the state.
What's more, the polling average was pulled sharply to Trump thanks to a CNN-ORC poll putting him up by a wide margin in the state. Other recent polling has shown a closer race — still a shift toward Trump, but not to the extent that the polling average currently shows.
— One outlier poll is giving Trump his lead in North Carolina, too. A poll from WRAL-TV and SurveyUSA in North Carolina earlier this week gave Trump a 7-point lead, enough for a small margin in the Tarheel State. Other recent polling has shown Clinton with a slight lead.
This is critically important. Trump can't win without winning either North Carolina or Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania's gotten closer, too, but not as close as North Carolina. (Notice that it's still blue in the map above.) If Clinton holds North Carolina, Trump has no realistic path to 270 electoral votes.
— Polls may not capture turnout well. Some 34 million people have already voted, many of them in battleground states where Clinton was winning by a decent margin when the people voted. (This, again, is why Ralston's so confident.)
What's more, there are six states that currently have a margin of two points or less in the polling average. On Election Day in 2008 and 2012, RCP tracked only four states that close. Narrow margins are where strong ground efforts — pulling people to the polls — can make a difference. By all accounts, Clinton's efforts in that regard are superior to Trump's.
A lot depends on both turnout and how the polls move over the next few days. The Post-ABC tracking poll has Clinton regaining her national lead; the polls in Florida have moved back in her favor. (Needless to say, if Clinton wins Florida, she wins the election.) If they hold steady, it's something of a toss-up. At his best over the course of the campaign, Donald Trump has scrambled to a tie. That's about where he is now, perhaps a little behind.
But a state or two goes his way? If the polls keep heading in his direction for the next five days, even a relatively minor amount? The incoming president Barack Obama congratulates on the west front steps of the Capitol in January will be a certain businessman from New York.
Update: Needless to say, if Clinton wins Georgia — a new poll has her within 1 point — the above calculus changes pretty dramatically.