What the latest polls mean for the presidency — and Congress

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Delegates point to an electoral map at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. U.S. July 27, 2016.  REUTERS/Charles Mostoller - RTSJYXU

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JUDY WOODRUFF: We return to the presidential election now for a look at where the race stands, what each nominee’s path to victory is and how down-ballot races are shaking out this year.

We are joined by our own correspondent Lisa Desjardins and Nathan Gonzales. He’s editor of The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report and elections editor for Roll Call.

And hello to both of you.

So, Nathan, let’s start with you.

The electoral vote map has shifted a little. Tell us what things look like right now.

NATHAN GONZALES, The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report: Well, Secretary Clinton has had the advantage both in the national polls, the national vote, but also in the Electoral College for quite some time.

But right now, she continues — there are a couple of states, Florida and North Carolina, that we just moved from tossup to leaning, tilting Democratic, and that just adds to the 270 electoral votes. Right now, on our map, we have over 323 electoral votes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Whoa.

NATHAN GONZALES: The two tossups that are remaining, I think, are Iowa and Ohio. And what is remarkable is, you would have told Republicans that you are going to win Ohio and you’re even going to win Iowa, a President Obama that won twice, I think they would be ecstatic.

The bad news is Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Nevada, all of these other states are in poor shape. And there’s kind of a soft underbelly of some traditionally Republican states that Trump is risking losing as well.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, given that, what is Donald Trump’s path forward?

LISA DESJARDINS: Don’t you wonder?

And this is the fun part. This is where I get to say let’s look at the map. I think the best way to think of it is that he needs to win 64 more electoral votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012. The simplest way to do that is the big three states. That’s Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida.

Problem there, Pennsylvania, Donald Trump has not won a poll in Pennsylvania since June, since before his convention. So let’s imagine that Pennsylvania is off the plate. And let’s also imagine this is not — we don’t know if this will happen — that Florida and Ohio, for the sake of argument, go Trump. That’s what he’s hoping for in his path to victory.

What does he have to do then? Well, look at the remaining swing states we have across the country. Donald Trump now has to win two or three of these in order to become president. These are states like Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Virginia? What do they have in common?

As you just heard from Nathan, they have all been moving in Hillary Clinton’s direction strongly. Just Iowa remains really as a swing state in that group. And, as Nathan said, Judy, he has got problems on home turf like Arizona, places that are moving away from him, and North Carolina that he needs to keep.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Nathan, confirming, those are tough gets for Donald Trump, aren’t they?

NATHAN GONZALES: It is.

And I think it’s important to remember that this was going to be tough for any Republican nominee, Marco Rubio or John Kasich. There were four tossups coming into the election, Ohio, Florida, Colorado, and Virginia. And once we saw Colorado and Virginia moving toward Hillary Clinton, that means that it had to be Pennsylvania or another a big state. And it’s just not coming together.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Now, Lisa, you have looked at the polls and you have looked at why it is that Hillary Clinton has moved up, and I think it’s interesting, these results.

LISA DESJARDINS: Right.

I was wondering, what is going on? A lot of people might think, oh, well, women are shifting. No, when you look at the polls in these key states that are moving the most, it’s actually men who are changing. When you look at polls out of Nevada, for example, Monmouth polls this month vs. last month show that men under 50 years old, they’re voting 53 percent for Hillary Clinton right now, but a month ago, 29 percent.

That’s an unbelievable shift of 24 points in a month. And you see this in other states and nationally. And it seems men are moving away from Donald Trump right now.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s just there are stories all over the map.

And, Nathan, let’s talk about the Senate seats. Right now, it is very much in Republican hands. And Republicans seemed to be holding on to that majority up until recently, but now with this shift at the presidential level, what’s happening?

NATHAN GONZALES: Sure.

Republicans — well, Democrats need to gain four seats in order to get to 50. Vice President Tim Kaine would be the tie-breaker. So, four is the magic number. And I think, for most of the cycle, Republican candidates were remarkably resilient, based on Donald Trump being at the top of the ticket.

But then there was the “Access Hollywood” tape, the second debate, and now we have seen a steep decline in Trump’s numbers. And the presidential race has always had an impact on Senate races, but, as his hole gets deeper, that increases the number of ticket-splitters that these Republicans need in order to survive.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Lisa, talk about how then exactly the Democrats’ chances look for taking over the Senate.

LISA DESJARDINS: Yet again, let’s go to the map. I love it.

This is a case where again Republicans walked in with a disadvantage. And this is why, because, if you look at all the seats that are tossups this year, depending on how you count them, maybe about eight of them we will put on this map, the vast majority of them are red, they are held by Republicans. There is one, Nevada, that Democrats are defending.

Now, if you take these seats, it seems the most vulnerable for Republicans are two, Wisconsin and Illinois. So let’s imagine that they do go Democratic. That’s two of the four that Nathan says that Democrats need.

Then we have got six these remaining swing states that, of those, Democrats need to win three. So, is that maybe a win in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where Kelly Ayotte, who was doing well and now is having a problem? Same thing in Pennsylvania, where we see the incumbent Senator Toomey is also having a problem.

They were outperforming Trump a month ago. Now they’re on the ropes. And Democrats need to just pick up three of this group of six swing Senate seats. So, it’s getting more and more within their reach.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, Nathan, if things look a little better for the Democrats in the Senate, what about the House? That’s been a reach. What does it look like now?

NATHAN GONZALES: Democrats have always had a tough reach in the House. They need 30 seats to gain 30 seats. Now, 30 out of 435 doesn’t sound like very many, but 30, when only about 40 are competitive, is tough.

They basically have to run the table. And, so far, we haven’t seen a uniform drop in Republican candidate support across the country. There are vulnerable districts out there, but I think the margin is probably closer to 10, 15 seats, 20 seats, rather than 30, because Trump is getting destroyed in the suburbs.

He is causing some suburban Republican incumbents to be vulnerable in the suburbs. But Trump is actually going well in a place like rural Michigan, Michigan’s 1st District, a seat Democrats have to win, but Trump’s performance is actually helping Republicans keep that seat.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Republicans losing some seats, but not anywhere near enough to lose the majority?

NATHAN GONZALES: Right now, it doesn’t look like the majority is in danger.

But two weeks can be a lot of time, and these House races are the latest ones to develop.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Two-and-a-half weeks to go.

Nathan Gonzales, Lisa Desjardins, thank you.

NATHAN GONZALES: Thank you.

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