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NPR Battleground Map: Hillary Clinton Is Winning — And It's Not Close

Let's make one thing clear: Three weeks out from this election, Hillary Clinton is winning — and it's not close.

Yes, people still have to vote, but if Democratic groups come out — and the Trump scorched-earth campaign is more like a white flag than an actual strategy — Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States unless something drastic changes between now and Election Day.

The month of October has been about as bad as could be for Trump. Let's recap. There was:

-- The leaked audio of Trump's comments bragging about kissing and groping women

-- Multiple women coming forward after Trump denied doing those things in the second debate

-- Trump's subpar first debate performance, and ...

-- The revelation in leaked tax returns that he sustained $915 million in losses and could have used them to pay zero in taxes for nearly two decades. (In the debates, Trump said that makes him "smart" and didn't deny not paying federal taxes in some years.)

The latest NPR Battleground Map shows that while Trump's path was always been narrow, now it's nearly nonexistent. The only places where the map has really expanded amid Trump's controversies is into Republican territory.

What moves we made

Clinton is running ads in Texas, and surrogates are in Arizona. Texas, Missouri and Indiana now move to Lean Republican from Safe/Likely. (Missouri and Indiana have competitive Senate races, where Democrats are faring well.)

Will Clinton win Texas? Probably not. But it is looking like it could be within 10 points for the first time in 20 years. And that's when an incumbent president Southerner from neighboring Arkansas was on the ballot.

We also did move a state more in Trump's direction — Minnesota from Safe/Likely D to Lean D. Minnesota has been within 6 points in decent polls, and Obama won it by only 7. Will Trump win Minnesota? Like Texas for Democrats, probably not. But the margin is worth keeping an eye on.

We're also still watching Georgia, which still feels like it leans Trump by voting history, but demographics and a new Washington Post/Survey Monkey poll suggest a toss-up. We'll leave it for now and see where the polls go over the next week.

Just how unlikely is it that Trump will win?

To do so, he would have to take all of the toss-up states — Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, Arizona, the two electoral votes between Nebraska and Maine — and win a state leaning in Clinton's direction. The likeliest target remains New Hampshire, with its almost all-white population, but Clinton — especially in the past couple of weeks — has maintained what appears to be a durable lead there.

In the other Lean Democratic states, Clinton's lead has remained consistent or expanded, particularly in Pennsylvania, where Clinton remains ahead by high single digits. Democrats remain confident in Wisconsin and Michigan, despite some tightening.

While Trump's base hasn't abandoned him, it's not enough to win if women, African-Americans and Hispanics vote at past rates or even a bit less. Trump has done nothing to win over persuadable voters.

National polls have expanded, showing Clinton with a lead on the low end of 4 points to a high of 12. And while Trump remains within striking distance in enough battlegrounds, again, he has to run the table in them to win. He has to win all of them, while Clinton has to just hold where she is ahead. Her lead has only grown in states favorable to her this month, and the needle has moved toward her in toss-ups, like Florida, North Carolina and Nevada.

To put this in perspective, Trump winning would be something like coming back from being down 3-0 in a best-of-seven baseball series. Sure, the Toronto Blue Jays could come back to beat the Cleveland Indians. I mean, the Red Sox did it to the Yankees in 2004, right? Yes, but it's highly unlikely.

Don't hang your hat on outliers.

There have been 34 league championship series or World Series in which Major League Baseball teams have been down 3-0 in baseball's more than 140-year history, according to a helpful list from SB Nation. That miraculous Red Sox comeback is the only time it's ever happened. Ever. That's 3 percent of the time.

In 29 of those series, the team leading went on to sweep. That's 85 percent.

So ask yourself, what's more likely?

OK, politics isn't baseball. But in politics, too, there's usually more chance of all the states breaking one direction than a mix happening. (And a mix, by the way, would still mean Clinton wins.)

You don't have to look far for precedent. In 2012, Obama led Republican Mitt Romney by 1 point (47-46 percent) in the RealClearPolitics average the same number of days out from Election Day. By the last poll average on Nov. 6, Election Day 2012, Obama was ahead by less than a point — 48.8-48.1 percent.

On Election Day, Obama won by 4 points — 51-47 percent, and he basically swept the toss-up states minus North Carolina, which really was leaning Romney's way. There wasn't a poll showing Obama ahead the entire month of October there. (And to be fair to the Obama campaign, its internal polls had Obama up by the exact final margin for almost the entire campaign.)

Clinton is up 7 points in an average of the polls. The most Obama was up on average by was 6 in February 2012.

Elections are supposed to get closer as Election Day nears, not further apart.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.