Trump gains on Clinton in the Rust Belt

Trump needs the Rust Belt to win. At this rate, he just might get it.

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After a solid week on the campaign trail, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump is closing the gap with Hillary Clinton in the crucial swing states of the Rust Belt.

New polls conducted by Emerson College show a tightening race in Pennsylvania and Ohio, where Mr. Trump is now locked in a dead heat with Mrs. Clinton. And in Michigan, a state which has gone blue in every presidential election since 1992, the Republican nominee has cut a double-digit deficit down to only five points, while another survey gives him a one-point lead.

As I wrote last week, Donald Trump’s path to the White House depends heavily upon the Rust Belt, where a large white working-class population could flip traditionally Democratic states in his favor. Failing to convert Pennsylvania, Michigan, or Wisconsin would leave Mr. Trump to hope for a miraculous sweep of the remaining swing states, which would produce a 269-269 electoral vote tie.

Without Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, Donald Trump cannot win 270 electoral votes—even if he picks up every remaining swing state.

But with an ascendancy in the blue-leaning states of the Midwest, Mr. Trump has many more ways to turn the White House red. In fact, with a Rust Belt sweep, the G.O.P. nominee could lose Florida and still win—with room to spare.

With the Rust Belt in play, Mr. Trump has many more plausible paths to the White House.

If the trend toward Mr. Trump in these states holds, the Republican nominee will force Hillary Clinton to play defense, assuring her position in the Midwest instead of working to poach the red-leaning states of Georgia and Arizona from the G.O.P.’s fragmented southern coalition. It could also help the Republicans preserve their fragile majority in the U.S. Senate, boosting Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey and perhaps even Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson to victory on the coattails of a strong Trump showing in those crucial states.

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