The new Quinnipiac Poll showing Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton essentially tied in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania has sent the chattering class into collective shock. The same Washington insiders who insisted that Trump could never win the nomination may now want to rethink their equally stubborn insistence that he can't win the election.
The polls show that, as unpopular as Trump is among women, Clinton is equally disliked by men.
It appears that the only white men who are not voting for Trump are Lindsay Graham and Jeb Bush.
It's too soon to say Trump will win. But it is not too soon to say that he can win.
Here's how he could pull it off. President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 5 million votes in 2012. Here's how Trump could close the gap.
—Among white voters, turnout dropped from 67.2 percent in 2004 to 63.1 in 2012. Trump has shown in the primaries that he can bring them back. Add this increased turnout to the rise in white population, we can expect about 10 million new whites to vote. Romney carried whites by 61-39. If we assume that Trump can carry whites by the same margin, but with 10 million more of them, he will carry the new voters 6 million to 4 million, cutting the Democratic margin nationally by 2 million votes.
—Among young people, dissatisfaction with Clinton (and Trump) has reached record levels. In the primaries, Sanders beat Clinton by margins approaching 80-20 among those under 30. Trump is also unpopular among the young and lost the millennial generation by large margins in the primaries. The likely result is that young voters will revert to their traditional pattern of sitting out the coming election. Obama carried voters under 30 by 58-38 and generated a high turnout, enough to make them 19 percent of all votes cast. But, in 2008, they only cast 18 percent of the vote and in 2004, only 17 percent. With Clinton's inability to stoke much enthusiasm among young voters, it is quite likely that their turnout will drop back to 17 percent of the vote. That would indicate a drop in under 30 turnout of 2.5 million voters. Since Obama won them by 20 points, subtract 500,000 votes from the Democratic total.
—Likewise, African-American turnout was enormous for Obama. Blacks, who cast only 11 percent of the vote in 2004, cast 13 percent in 2008 and in 2012. This increase of 2.5 million votes, despite no increase in their share of the U.S. population, was astonishing. Since they almost all voted Democrat, if their turnout drop back to its pre-2008 norm, as is likely with a white candidate, it would cut another 2.5 votes from Clinton's total.
So add it up:
Clinton loses 2.5 million black votes, 500,000 young votes and Trump gains 2 million white votes and you have completely erased Obama's 2012 margin over Romney.
And this calculation ignores the differences between the candidates. Clinton is in trouble because of her past record and her lies. Trump is in jeopardy because of the positions he has taken on key issues and the language he uses to articulate them. Trump can always trim his positions, moderate his rhetoric, smooth his edges and appear more acceptable and presidential. But what is Clinton to do with the facts of her background?
How can she explain Benghazi? Her decision to use a private server? The massive speaking fees she and her husband received in return for favorable actions by her State Department and the anticipation of more from the White House if she gets in? The pardons Bill Clinton granted to her brother's undeserving clients? Her parlay of a $1,000 investment into $100,000 on the cattle futures market?
Trump can campaign endlessly on these scandals, making Clinton hedge, lie, cover up, and misstate the facts each day. Meanwhile, Clinton's efforts to paint Donald as a Neanderthal will fall in the face of his likely sweet reasonableness as the campaign unfolds.
I'm not saying Trump will win. But he could.