Bloomberg Politics has a fascinating piece this morning breaking down polling numbers, and seems to suggest that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enjoys a small overall advantage over businessman Donald Trump.
Close polls in battleground states yield results in line with what we would expect when the national margin is around 4 percentage points. For example, according to the Pollster.com compilation of polling averages, Clinton is ahead in Florida, Ohio, and New Hampshire by about 4 percentage points and Trump leads in North Carolina by 2 percentage points.
The polls are also in line with the well-established fundamental factors that structure and explain presidential elections. The changing face of the American electorate (becoming less white), Obama’s improving job-approval rating, and an easier path to 270 in the Electoral College benefit the Democrats. On the other hand, economic growth remains tepid, the most recent jobs report was weak, optimism in the electorate remains low, most say things are headed off on the wrong track, and it is difficult for an incumbent party to win a third term.
So, without incorporating anything specific about this particular and peculiar year or this past particularly peculiar week—not to mention a certain particularly peculiar candidate—the fundamentals point to a competitive election with a slight advantage for the Democrats.
This happens to be a finding exactly in line with the current polls. Put another way, a slight under-performance by Clinton or over-performance by Trump over the next five months makes this race a toss-up. A slight over-performance by Clinton and under-performance by Trump puts this in landslide (at least under the modern definition) territory for the Democrats—something akin to Obama’s 2008 victory.
It's a long way to November, but as both parties prepare to officially nominate their presumed candidates for 2016 (and there is still rumblings on both sides that there could be a last-minute switch in the lineup), it appears Clinton has a slight edge, but one that could easily be either erased or dramatically expanded depending on future events.