After trailing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in the polls for months, Republican Donald Trump seems to have made slow inroads with the people of Old Dominion. Recent polls have indicated that Clinton's lead over Trump has shrunk in Virginia. However, I should clarify that although the lead has "shrunk" that means it has gone from double-digits to about seven percent at the time of writing, according to the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University.
Still, after Trump received criticism for renewing his focus in the state, Clinton's shrinking lead is surely welcome news for his campaign. However, despite Trump's decision to pump money, surrogates, and time into the state, he is still unlikely to win there. As I explained in a previous post on Virginia, these resources would be much more efficiently spent in targeted approaches to on-the-fence demographics in key states, like the suburban white Pennsylvania women parodied on Saturday Night Live or union workers in Ohio skeptical of Clinton's energy rhetoric.
Why is Trump so unlikely to win Old Dominion? Firstly, he is up against Tim Kaine, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee who has won gubernatorial, senate, mayoral, and local elections in the state. Secondly, Trump's anti-establishment rhetoric hasn't endeared him to Virginians, who have a high rate of employment in government or government-related sectors. Trump's unpopularity in Virginia may even damage down-ballot Republicans, including Northern Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, whose opponent ran attack ads comparing her to Trump.
Another telling thorn in Trump's side is support for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson from some who otherwise might vote Republican. The Richmond Times-Dispatch broke with nearly four decades of tradition in endorsing Johnson over Trump.
Even if Virginia is not likely a winnable state for Trump, he may still need to put up a fight. The Washington Post's Aaron Blake compared Trump's narrow path to victory to Mitt Romney's in 2012: because Trump is trailing in swing states, he must try to put "bluer" states in play, even though they may seem unlikely.
Still, there's another factor that could be a game-changer for Trump n Virginia — and really anywhere: FBI Director James Comey's announcement less than two weeks before Election Day that the bureau was investigating new emails related to Clinton's private server probe has thrown all sense of certainty out the window. The only thing that is sure now is that Clinton isn't set to cruise to the landslide that was once considered a guarantee — and that may hold nationally and Virginia.