Smith: Inside the poll numbers, Donald Trump's Florida challenge is obvious

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally Monday in Pueblo, Colo. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a rally Monday in Pueblo, Colo. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Published October 3 2016
Updated October 4 2016

We've heard a lot of anxious Florida Democrats worry lately that Hillary Clinton won't be able to mobilize the so-called Obama Coalition — young, minority and college-educated voters — the way Barack Obama did when he narrowly won Florida in 2008 and 2012.

Looking at the assorted Florida polls that have been released in recent weeks, however, the more valid question is whether Donald Trump can adequately win over the Mitt Romney coalition. It looks like a bigger reach at this point for Trump to do as well in Florida this year as Romney did four years ago when he lost by under 1 percentage point.

Quinnipiac University on Monday released a survey showing Clinton leading Trump in Florida by 5 percentage points, 46 percent to 41 percent, with 5 percent for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson. At least one Quinnipiac number jumped out: Clinton leads among Florida women 53 percent to 33 percent — twice the 10-point advantage exit polls showed for Obama among Florida women.

Other credible polls that provide sufficient detail to compare with 2012 underscore that Trump has a lot more work to do in must-win Florida than Clinton does at this point.

• Romney won 61 percent of the white vote in 2012, exit polls found, and Obama 37 percent. Recent Mason-Dixon and Monmouth University polls both show Trump pulling just 53 percent of white voters in Florida.

• Romney won 39 percent of Florida Hispanics, exit polls showed, but a Mason-Dixon poll released last week showed Trump drawing just 29 percent.

• Among self-described moderates, Obama beat Romney by 7 percentage points. The Monmouth poll showed Clinton beating Trump among moderates by 15 points.

• Romney in 2012 won Floridians with college degrees by 7 percentage points. Monmouth found Clinton leading those voters by 16 percentage points.

Four years ago, Romney consistently led Florida from September to Election Day in the average of polls. Today? Clinton leads by an average of 2.8 percentage points.

"The army of Trump grows every day as we continue to outpace the Clinton campaign with new voter registrations and absentee ballot requests," said Susie Wiles, Trump's chief Florida strategist. "There can be no doubting the unprecedented intensity behind the supporters of Donald Trump."

The ranks of Trump's Florida supporters may indeed have much more intensity and enthusiasm than Clinton's. But mail ballots are going out this week, the critical first debate is done, and unless Trump grows his pool of Florida support, he will lose Florida and he will lose the election.

Contact Adam C. Smith at [email protected] Follow @AdamSmithTimes.