Donald Trump didn’t just dip into Ohio on Thursday, he really did the state. Three boisterous rallies in one afternoon and evening in front of large crowds in Springfield, Toledo and, after sundown, inside an athletics hall in Geneva, not far from Cleveland on Lake Erie.
Mr Trump’s itinerary in this last stretch of the presidential campaign offers clues as to the path his campaign believes remains open to him to clinch the 270 votes needed in the Electoral College to declare victory.
Just as you know why Mr Trump is spending lots of time in Ohio, you also know why he is paying the same complement to Florida, where he was for three days in a row at the start of this week. Both offer large troves of votes in the Electoral College and both are, at this point, must-wins for the Republican if he has any hope of avoiding humiliating defeat.
Yet on Friday Mr Trump goes to Maine, one of two states, along with Nebraska, that divvies up its electoral votes between two congressional districts. Mr Trump will be in the mostly rural 2nd Congressional District, where it’s possible he could prevail over Hillary Clinton. He would collect just one Electoral College vote for his pains, but that’s how perilous his predicament now is.
Navigating his way to victory at one time seemed to depend on Mr Trump snatching at least one of several states that might normally lean Democrat – Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia, Michigan and Wisconsin. But today, Clinton appears to have an unassailable grip on all of them.
But if Mr Trump’s luck improves a little between now and 8 November, there are few ways he could conceivably make it to 270 votes in the College. One involves winning both those special districts in Maine and Nebraska. Here, though, are the states he really can’t afford not to win.
As they say, no Republican has won the White House without winning Ohio also. While the Trump campaign continues to express optimism about its prospects believing that Mr Trump’s message on getting tough on trade and promising to return manufacturing jobs lost to overseas, the RealClearPolitics poll of polls only gave him a 1.1 per cent advantage on Thursday evening. That is hardly a comfortable lead, which is why Ohio will be seeing a lot of the Democrat too.
Until Wednesday, there was a sense that Mr Trump was losing his grasp on the Sunshine State and that for that reason alone there was no path for him to victory. But that’s when a Bloomberg poll came out showing him leading Ms Clinton 2 points in Florida, 45 percent to 43 percent. The news was a huge boost for his campaign and a worry for Ms Clinton who thought winning in Florida would deliver her opponent a knock-out punch. But one poll is just that, one poll.
Won by Barack Obama in 2008 and by Mitt Romney in 2012, North Carolina is a tantalizing prize for both camps. It’s looking tough for Mr Trump, but were the gap between him and Ms Clinton to narrow in national polling in the final days of the race, a victory for him here might not be out of the question. That’s why Ms Clinton chose the state for her first joint appearance on the campaign trail with Michelle Obama. The two campaigned in the state on Thursday.
This is the state everyone will be watching in the event of a Hillary blow-out. In recent weeks she has been sending money here in hopes of stealing it from the Republican column, which would be a signal achievement. And she deployed Ms Obama too last week for a campaign event in Phoenix. The latest Monmouth poll there showed Trump ahead by 1 point, 46% to Clinton’s 45%. The normally GOP-loving newspaper, the Arizona Republic, endorsed Clinton.
No one would have imagined that the 2016 Republican nominee would struggle to hold on to Utah – Romney won it by a stunning 50 points last time – but that appears to be the case for Mr Trump, whose record with women is particularly troubling to the state’s enormous Mormon constituency. Interestingly, it is not Ms Clinton he is trying to stave off, but Evan Mcmullin, a third-party, conservative candidate who hasn’t gained traction anywhere else.
Another state that in normal cycles should be an easy hold for the Republicans but which is also seeing money coming in from the Clinton camp that fancies its chances. Were Trump to lose Georgia and its 16 Electoral College votes it’s almost impossible not see how he could survive election night. It explains why Donald Trump Jr will be in Atlanta on Friday, hot on the heels of daughters Ivanka and Tiffany who were in the city on Wednesday.
Camp Trump is also deeply reliant on winning Iowa, a state that has a Democrat-friendly population around the Des Moines area but otherwise has shown deepening support, particularly in its rural, farming parts, for the billionaire from New York. But there was disturbing news for Trump on Thursday with the release of a new Quinnipiac University poll showing him tied with Clinton in the state. Previously, he had been leading by around four points in most polls.