Rising in the polls, Donald Trump is speaking with renewed confidence on the stump. But his schedule — trips to Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado, and other states where he trails in the polls — suggests the difficulty Trump faces finding the 270 electoral votes he needs to win the White House.

The tightening of the race in national polls has been bracing for both sides.

Not long ago, on October 18, Hillary Clinton had a 7.1-point lead over Trump in the RealClearPolitics average of polls of the 4-way race. Today, Clinton’s lead is 1.9 points.

As predicted, Gary Johnson’s share of the vote is declining, and there is now a convergence of polling of the 4-way race and the 2-way, Trump vs. Clinton showdown. Clinton’s lead over Trump in the 2-way contest is 1.7 points.

But two cautions. One, the national polls, even an average of them, might be wrong. On election eve in 2012, the RCP average of national polls had Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 0.7 points. Obama won by 3.9 points. Yes, the poll leader won the race, but that kind of gap is enough to make any poll watcher cautious.

The second caution is the state polls. Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes is so narrow that he will hit some must-win states early on election night. If he doesn’t prevail there, he won’t become president. But the state of the race in some of those must-win states is hard to figure out.

The clearest way for Trump to win 270 is to start by winning all the states Mitt Romney won in 2012. But that just gets Trump to 206 electoral votes.

First, give Trump Iowa, where he has had a durable lead in the polls. That gets him to 212. Then go to the first must-win state, Florida, with 29 electoral votes. There is no Trump victory scenario without Florida.

Right now, Trump is leading Clinton by 0.6 points in the RCP average of Florida polls. (I’m going to use the 2-way numbers from now on.) On this date in 2012, Romney led Obama by 1.2 points. As the election neared, Romney’s lead grew a little, to 1.5 points on election eve. Then Obama won by 0.9 points.

Trump ties Clinton in NH poll, Clinton less favorable

Also from the Washington Examiner

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are statistically tied in a new WBUR poll of New Hampshire, which has shown Trump trailing since May.

Trump leads Clinton by 1 percentage point, 40-39, in the new WBUR poll that has a 4.4 percentage point margin of error. Previously, Clinton led by 3 points, 41-38, in an October poll, and by 7 points, 42-35, in September.

“The race really couldn’t be closer in New Hampshire at the moment,” said Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group that conducted the WBUR survey, to WBUR.

For the first time in WBUR’s polling, Clinton is disliked more than Trump. Her unfavorable rating is 59 percentage points, compared to 57 percent for Trump.

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That’s a warning on relying too much on the polls. But say Trump wins Florida. That gets him to 241 electoral votes.

Next comes another must-win state for Trump, Ohio, with 18 electoral votes. Trump leads Clinton by 3.3 points in the RCP average, a lead Trump has held for more than two weeks.

On this date in 2012, Obama led Romney by 2.3 points in Ohio. He went on to win the state by 3.0 points.

So say Trump wins Ohio. The addition of those 18 electoral votes gets him to 259 — just 11 votes away from victory.

But remember Trump has to win all of Romney’s states. And that’s where North Carolina, with 15 electoral votes, comes in.

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The RCP average in North Carolina is tied — exactly tied, at 46.4 points for Clinton and Trump. In 2012, Romney led the state at this point in the race by 3.8 points in the RCP average. The race tightened a little in the last few days, and Romney won by 2.0 points.

That Trump total of 259 includes North Carolina, as well as Trump pickups in Florida, Ohio, and Iowa. But if Trump doesn’t win North Carolina, he’s at 244. With North Carolina, victory is possible. Without it, things get really, really tough.

But assume Trump prevails in North Carolina. What then? Winning Pennsylvania, with its 20 electoral votes, would solve Trump’s problems. With victories in Florida, Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina, Pennsylvania would boost Trump to 279 votes — President Trump. If Trump won Pennsylvania but not North Carolina, he would be at 264, still short of the goal.

Clinton has a 5.1-point lead in the RCP average of Pennsylvania polls. She’s led in the state the whole campaign. Trump’s hopes there rely on voters he believes are not being reflected in the polls.

At this point in the 2012 race, Obama led Romney in Pennsylvania by 4.6 points. By election eve, that lead had ticked down to 3.8 points. Obama went on to win Pennsylvania by 5.4 points.

So Pennsylvania looks tough. Say Trump doesn’t win, but does win North Carolina. He’s still at 259. He’s got to pick up at least 11 electoral votes from Obama 2012 states.

Where to go? Try Nevada, with six electoral votes. Right now, Trump leads Clinton by 1.6 points in the RCP average. At this point in 2012, Obama led by 2.4 points in the RCP average. He won by 6.7 points.

Say Trump wins Nevada. That gets him to 265 — five short of victory.

Now, take a pause to see where things stand. If Trump wins all of the Romney states, including North Carolina, for 206 electoral votes, and then adds Florida (29), Ohio (18), Iowa (6), and Nevada (6), but not Pennsylvania (20), he would be at 265 electoral votes. He’s tantalizingly close to victory — just five votes short. Where does he get the remaining votes he needs?

One possibility is New Hampshire, with four electoral votes. Right now, Clinton has a 4.7-point lead in the state. At this point in 2012, Obama had a 1.0-point lead and went on to win the state by 5.6 points.

That doesn’t look good for Trump. But say he wins New Hampshire. That gets him to 269, still one electoral vote short of victory.

One possibility is Maine, which divides its electoral votes. There’s been talk about Trump picking up one of Maine’s two congressional district, which would give him 270 — victory, right on the number.

But that is an awful lot of moving parts to get to the winning 270. Perhaps Trump could grab another state that would also get him over the top. But where?

Look where Trump has traveled in recent days: Colorado, with nine electoral votes, Michigan, with 16, and Wisconsin, with ten. If Trump were stuck at 265, any would put him over the top. Of course, all are Obama states, and all would be a heavy lift for Trump.

Wisconsin, where Clinton leads by 5.4 points, and Michigan, where she leads by 6.6 points, seem beyond reach. But Colorado has enough electoral votes, and Clinton’s lead there is just 2.4 points.

At this point in 2012, Romney led Colorado by 0.5 points. Obama pulled ahead pretty dramatically in the last few days, and was ahead by 1.5 points in the RCP average on election eve. He went on to win by 5.4 points.

So Colorado would be hard. But if some of the eastern states don’t come through, it could become Trump’s last hope.

Finally, there was a disturbing — for Republicans — pattern in some of the 2012 states that Obama won: He significantly outperformed the RCP average on election eve. Colorado, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania — Obama did much better on Election Day in all of them. And this is important, too: With the exception of Florida, where he beat Romney when Romney led in the polls, Obama outperformed his own leads.

Unless the state polls change dramatically in the next few days, Trump will have to do more than that.

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