A new poll from the New York Times and Siena College finds that President Trump still leads Joe Biden in Texas by four points, 47 percent to 43 percent. That’s more or less in keeping with the polling averages showing Trump up a hair in the state, and is a reminder that he’s still likely to prevail there, even if Biden is making it seriously competitive.

But I wanted to highlight this finding:

The findings suggest that Republicans face catastrophic risks down-ballot, even if Mr. Trump wins. Mr. Biden leads him by five percentage points, 48 percent to 43 percent, across the 12 predominantly suburban congressional districts that the Cook Political Report has rated as competitive. These districts voted for the president by eight points in 2016.
In these districts, Republicans face a combination of rapid demographic change and previously unthinkable Democratic gains among white college-educated voters. Mr. Trump leads Mr. Biden by just two points among white college graduates in these districts, even though they say they backed Mr. Trump by 24 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

That’s a shocking 13-point shift in those districts, driven largely by movement among college-educated Whites. So why is Trump still narrowly ahead in the state?

Two reasons. First, because Trump retains a truly enormous lead among Texas rural Whites (80-15). And second, because Trump is doing surprisingly well among Hispanic voters in the state: He trails among them by 23 points, which is significantly better than in 2016, when he lost them by 31 points.

All those things mean Biden is doing astonishingly well in more educated districts that are evolving in a Democratic direction, even as Trump is still narrowly ahead in the state overall.

The reason this is so interesting is that it’s mirrored nationally, and tells us a lot about why Biden is now favored to defeat Trump.

This large shift toward Biden in contested House districts, particularly ones with a lot of educated Whites, also shows up in a great deal of private district-level polling.

As David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report recently said in an interview with this blog, Trump is polling around eight to 10 points behind his 2016 margins in private surveys of many such competitive districts. This is dramatically different from 2016, when private district-level polling showed Trump surging ahead of Hillary Clinton in districts that were heavy on non-college Whites, which state and national polls were slow to register.

This cycle’s district level polling shows that Biden is making up substantial ground in those less educated districts. But it’s also showing that Trump is way behind his 2016 margins in more educated districts.

And by the way, this cycle’s district polling also shows Trump overperforming with Hispanic voters. That’s particularly the case in Florida, but also in the Southwest.

In short, this new Texas poll seems to help confirm that broader story: Trump is doing better than 2016 among non-Whites, but he’s also falling behind his 2016 margins so dramatically among White voters — particularly among college-educated Whites, but also to some degree among working-class Whites — that he’s still trailing by a lot despite those gains.

All this is part of a broader trend in which Biden has made significant gains among White voters (both college educated and non-college-educated) in the Northern battleground states, even as Trump’s support remains very deep among non-college, rural and small-town Whites in the South. At the same time, Trump is also losing a lot of ground among educated Whites in both regions.

And all that in turn helps explain how tough the road ahead is for Trump. He needs to absolutely electrify turnout among non-college Whites to offset ongoing demographic change that’s whittling down the non-college White share of the overall vote. But Trump also needs to boost his current margins among them, to offset his losses among educated Whites.

That’s why Trump is spending valuable time campaigning in deep-red counties that went overwhelmingly for him last time. But on top of all that, Trump also needs to reduce his losses among college-educated Whites.

Doing all those things isn’t impossible, to be sure, but it’s hard. A major polling error, one dwarfing that of 2016, is also conceivable, but many pollsters have taken steps to avoid such an error, such as reweighting to avoid missing non-college-educated voters.

All of which is to say that Trump is still winning in Texas, according to this poll. But the narrowness of the lead it demonstrates also tells the story of his broader travails, and of this whole campaign.

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