In an election year that has defied most precedents, this could be one of the most surprising: New polling indicates Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton is within striking distance of Republican nominee Donald Trump in the reliably red state of Texas.
On Oct. 13, a new SurveyUSA poll found that Trump only had a lead of 4 percentage points over Clinton, within the survey’s margin of error. The poll was commissioned by WFAA-TV and Texas TEGNA.
Trump leads a four-way race in Texas with 47 percent support while Clinton is close behind with 43 percent. Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson comes in third with 3 percent, well below his national average, while Green Party nominee Jill Stein clocks in with 1 percent support.
A 4-point difference can seem like a comfortable lead in a presidential race, but that margin pales in comparison to previous GOP nominees in Texas.
In 2012, former Republican Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts won the state by 16 percentage points. In 2008, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona won the state by 13 percentage points.
Former President George W. Bush won Texas by 23 percentage points in 2004 and 22 percentage points in 2000. Given those margins of victory, Trump’s current lead is shockingly slim.
“I think to put these numbers in context -- it shows that Trump’s position has eroded a little bit,” said Matthew Wilson, associate professor of political science at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
Past polls indicate that Trump has consistently polled lower than his GOP nominee predecessors but has suffered a dip since Oct. 7 when a 2005 recording of him bragging about kissing and groping women without consent surfaced.
On Sept. 11, a poll conducted by Texas Lyceum indicated the business mogul had a lead of 7 points in a four-way race. On Oct. 1, a week before the scandalous audio leaked, Trump still had a 7 percentage point lead in a KTVT-CBS 11 poll, according to Real Clear Politics.
Based on these past polls, Trump’s support has actually remained stable in the latest survey. The narrowing gap between him and Clinton appears to be the collapsing support for Johnson among Texas voters. Since Sept. 11, Johnson’s support has dipped by 6 percentage points. Meanwhile, Clinton has finally surged past 40 percent support, when she had previously been unable to reach past a 38 percent ceiling.
Wilson noted that Trump’s staying power in Texas, despite his sagging support in other states, “shows what a tough nut Texas is to crack for Democratic candidates right now.”
The last time Texas voters swung for a Democratic nominee was in 1976, when they helped elect President Jimmy Carter.
FiveThirtyEight, the polling website spearheaded by statistician Nate Silver, currently projects that Clinton has an 81.8 percent chance of winning the presidential election. Based on national polls, the state of the economy and historical data, the site gives Trump an 18.1 percent chance of victory.