Donald Trump isn't quite taking the lead in the official polls, but his renewed strength, particularly in three states the "experts" are still very resistant to flip into the red column, make it completely possible that he could win if the election were held today.
The first state is Michigan, where a combination of the latest poll data and some important news stories give Trump some serious momentum. The polling arm of Reuters called Michigan "too close to call" earlier this week. But the most important poll in question was conducted earlier this month by the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV.
The headline from the poll said Hillary Clinton had a narrow three-point lead in that poll. But digging into the numbers more deeply showed that the core of her support is not only eroding quickly, it's mostly based on people much less likely to go to the polls on Election Day. A tougher "likely voter" filtering process in that poll would have shown Trump in the lead.
And that's not all. A decent amount of that poll was conducted before Clinton's medical scare at the Manhattan 9/11 ceremony and the Ford announcement that it is moving its small car production from Michigan to Mexico. And Michigan is also the state where Clinton was surprisingly beaten by Senator Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. Her support in the state was never very strong, and now the news cycle has turned against her.
I think if the election were held today, Michigan and its 16 electoral votes would flip to Trump.
Next we have another state that all the pundits simply refuse to solidly take out of the Democrats' column: Colorado. The latest statewide poll there has Trump with a four-point lead. All of the national polling trends helping Trump across the country, especially the reaction to Clinton's health issues, are boosting his numbers in Colorado.
Another big assist for Trump in that state comes from the candidacy of Gary Johnson. Johnson's popularity makes sense in Colorado, as he was the former governor of New Mexico, just next door. Johnson also is well known by Coloradans for favoring national marijuana legalization, something that's already occurred in Colorado and is still a very popular policy.
Johnson is polling as high 14 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of all polls in Colorado, which is simply an enormous level of support at this late stage in a national election for any third-party candidate.
Johnson's support is definitely drawing from the younger voter demographic Clinton desperately needs to come out and support her. To put it another way, 40 percent of the vote in Colorado should be more than enough to win the state and all of its nine electoral votes. And Trump's base of support is more likely to get him to that magic number, while Clinton has to fight both him and Johnson for attention.
And, then there's Florida, which has been logged for Clinton in several polls but I think will end up going for Trump, along with its 29 electoral votes. Why? Age. There are a lot of retirees in Florida. Trump has a significant lead among older voters, according to a recent CNN poll, and they tend to turn up at the polls in the best overall numbers compared to other age groups.
The current Real Clear Politics round-up of polls (without toss-up states) has Clinton in the lead, 301 to 237. But if you flip Michigan, Colorado and Florida for Trump, that changes the game: Trump wins, 291 to 247.
Of, course, the key question is: With the debates about to start, can he hold the lead? It's a good question, but not without the available data to direct us to an answer. That would be the many debates Trump participated in during the Republican primary process. Online polls and other surveys showed that Trump "won" all of those contests, but more importantly, none of them ever did anything to dent his leads over the rest of the GOP field.
Now, Trump approaches what's supposed to be a different landscape with one-on-one debates as opposed to the crowded field of Republican candidates. Don't be fooled. The same mainstream media types will be writing and asking the questions under the same general rules and process we saw in all the primary debates. It doesn't mean Trump will crush Clinton, but it's hard to envision any scenario where anything happens that could dent his momentum. If his momentum is stopped, it won't be from the debates.
On the other hand, with the trend definitely moving against Clinton and with so many questions about her health to boot, all the pressure is on her to perform extremely well in the face-to-face meetings. The added attention on Clinton will also help Trump avoid too much potential damage.
Beyond the debates, the "known unknowns" that we've come to at least look for, like another terrorist attack or a super strong or super weak jobs report, don't seem like they could really tip the election momentum right now... at least not against Trump. There is some potential additional downside for Clinton in some of those above scenarios.
The election is still 48 days away, but it's now Trump's to win. As this trend continues, just watch: More of the polls will start to come to the same conclusions.