Way back in July, on the first day of the DNC, a lot of people freaked out because Donald Trump overtook Hillary Clinton in FiveThirtyEight’s Now Cast poll. Trump’s lead then came as the result of the post-convention bounce many candidates get, but at the time I wrote that everything was fine: Post-convention bounces are normal and they go away. More importantly, polling doesn’t start to be really indicative until after both conventions—and it doesn’t start to be really, really indicative until after Labor Day. Trump’s went away fairly quickly, thanks in large part to his response to Khizr Khan’s DNC speech, and Clinton’s kept her well ahead of Trump for most of August.
Well, both conventions have come and gone, Labor Day was twelve hours ago, and Donald Trump is leading Hillary Clinton again, sort of—a CNN/ORC poll has Trump leading Clinton by two points, meaning that they are effectively tied. So, is it time to panic now?
Clinton has finally shed the sizable bounce she got after the DNC, but she is still in a pretty good place if you look at the big picture. National polls like the CNN/ORC poll matter less than national polling averages, where Clinton still leads Trump, as The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent points out, by three to five points, and state polling averages, where Clinton is leading Trump in most of the key swing states. Trump is still struggling with every category of voters who aren’t non-college educated whites, and there’s no sign that he’s making necessary inroads with voters outside of his base, which helps explain why he’s rarely ever captured more than 45 percent of the vote in any individual poll.
Clinton’s supporters—and anyone who doesn’t want Donald Trump to be president—are understandably jumpy, but with less than seventy days to the election, the fundamentals all look pretty good for Clinton. For now, Trump’s lead in a couple of polls looks a bit like Clinton’s cough—it grabs headlines and drives traffic, but doesn’t tell us anything particularly meaningful about the election itself. Of course, Clinton’s lead isn’t insurmountable and the race is getting tighter, but it’s not time to panic.