The word is that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has stopped looking at a win and are now trying to run up the score.
Revealing a level of confidence Clinton’s inner circle has been eager to squash for weeks, outside advisers have now identified victories in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire as the path of least resistance, delivering for the Democratic nominee more than the 270 electoral votes needed to take the White House. And they are projecting increased confidence about her chances in Republican-leaning North Carolina, a state that could prove as critical as Ohio or Pennsylvania.
Those consultants said they see virtually no chance of Donald Trump winning Pennsylvania, a state with 20 electoral votes that tantalizes Republicans each cycle but has gone blue in the past six presidential elections. That confidence was boosted by a recent Monmouth University poll that put Clinton up 10 points over college-educated whites in that battleground state and tied with the Republican nominee among white women, a group of voters that Mitt Romney won by 9 points in 2012.
Democrats advising the campaign said they feel equally confident about her standing in New Hampshire, where Clinton was leading Trump by 15 points in a WBUR poll released in August.
Those two victories, coming on top of the 249 electoral votes that are part of the “blue wall” of states that vote firmly Democratic, would be enough to call the race for Clinton with 273 electoral votes in the bag.
The absence of a clear campaign strategy makes Donald Trump’s path to 270 electoral votes even more difficult.
But the Clinton campaign is not putting all its eggs in what looks like its sturdiest basket. A massive financial advantage over Trump has given the campaign an opportunity to keep its numerous paths to 270 open for now, aiming for a wide-open map, deep into the calendar.
“She is sitting at 269 electoral votes guaranteed right now,” said David Plouffe, the architect of Barack Obama’s two victories and an outside adviser to Clinton’s campaign, including the battleground state of Pennsylvania in his count. “I would argue she is sitting at 347 but for argument’s sake we can suspend reality for a moment.”
I wish I could write this of as mere puffery but I can’t. With Donald Trump at the top of the ticket Georgia and Arizona have become battleground states. Trump doesn’t break 50% in the polling in freakin Utah.
There are two big reasons why the Clinton campaign is doing this, other than the fact that they have raised a bazillion dollars and can. First, Clinton wants to change the composition of the House and Senate as much as possible. By doing a full court press, she will pick of vulnerable House members in Red-to-Purple states that would have survived if she had focused on a simple win. It looks like, however, that this strategy is problematic as my colleague Jay Caruso posted. The second reason is that she would like to enter office with a “mandate.” (In the immortal words of James Carville, “The only politician in America I know with a mandate is Jim McGreevey.”) A huge electoral college victory will give her bargaining power with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan who will run like scalded dogs from the notion that they are obstructing the will of the first woman president. And that is a strategy that definitely will work.