If you looked only at the blue states, you probably wouldn’t think that Donald J. Trump was in huge trouble. The recent 10-point polling deficits in states like Michigan or Pennsylvania may sting but aren’t jaw-dropping.
But the red states are a totally different story. Polls show him trailing or barely ahead in reliably Republican states like Georgia, Arizona and Utah, even Kansas. He has even trailed in some of these states when the national polls were more favorable to him than they are now.
It’s not a straightforward demographic story. Despite his struggles in some states neighboring Nevada, Mr. Trump still seems competitive in the state, perhaps the most diverse of the Obama-era battleground states….
The simple way to think about Mr. Trump’s strength is in terms of education among white voters. He hopes to do much better than Mitt Romney did in 2012 among white voters without a degree so that he can make up the margin of Mr. Romney’s four-point defeat and overcome the additional losses he’s likely to absorb among well-educated voters and Hispanic voters. Even when Mr. Trump has led in the polls, he has fared worse than Mr. Romney among those two groups.
On paper, that’s easy enough in a state like Iowa or Ohio, where white working-class voters are plentiful and President Obama won a lot of them. They might now be willing to reject Hillary Clinton.
But that doesn’t work so well if there aren’t many white working-class Democrats for Mr. Trump to win over, or if there are a lot of well-educated voters for him to lose.
This Nate Cohn piece is very valuable in understanding why Trump is under- and over-performing in various states: