Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has pulled even with Hillary Clinton in polling in the key swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida, as Republicans begin to coalesce around their presumptive nominee, beginning a six-month sprint to Election Day.
Mr. Trump took another step to ensure the nomination Tuesday night, winning Republican primaries in West Virginia and Nebraska.
In the Democratic primary, only in West Virginia, Sen. Bernard Sanders scored yet another victory over Mrs. Clinton, stymying her hopes of getting past the nominating process and beginning to engage Mr. Trump head-on.
Instead, she has lost two contests in a row and limps into tough contests in Oregon and Kentucky primaries next week facing the prospect of a divisive race at least through the final primary in California in June, and possibly all the way to the convention in Philadelphia in July.
“We fully acknowledge we have an uphill climb ahead of us, but we’re used to fighting uphill,” Mr. Sanders told supporters at a rally in Oregon, which votes next week along with Kentucky. “Let me be as clear as I can be: We are in this campaign to win the Democratic nomination and will fight for every last vote.”
Mrs. Clinton’s inability to put Mr. Sanders away in the primary is striking given her decadelong presidential campaign and her formidable political operation. It’s even more stunning when compared to Mr. Trump, who only began campaigning 11 months ago and has already dispatched a far more formidable field of 16 major opponents on the Republican side.
His relatively quick victory gives him breathing space to try to repair the damage from the bruising primary, and GOP voters are responding by quickly coalescing around him.
That’s helped power him into virtual ties with Mrs. Clinton in a new Quinnipiac Poll released Tuesday, which surveyed voters over the preceding two weeks and found Mr. Trump ahead by 4 percentage points in Ohio and trailing Mrs. Clinton by 1 point in hypothetical matchups in Florida and Pennsylvania. All three results are within the polls’ margin of error, meaning the races are statistically tied.
The polls showed both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton winning about the same percentage of their own party’s base. That suggests that even though some party leaders and conservative pundits have said they won’t be able to support Mr. Trump, it’s having little effect on the party’s rank-and-file voters, who are quickly signing up.
“Six months from Election Day, the presidential races between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in the three most crucial states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, are too close to call,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the poll.
Tuesday’s results suggested similarly, with Mr. Trump grabbing 60 percent of the vote in Nebraska and 75 percent in West Virginia.
Mr. Sanders, by contrast, performed better than Mrs. Clinton in those head-to-head matchups with Mr. Trump — an argument he’s used to prolong his primary battle against Mrs. Clinton, and which he repeated in Tuesday night’s victory speech.
“Our campaign is generating the energy and the enthusiasm we need to have a large voter turnout in November,” he said at an election-night party.
He said he’s taken more than 45 percent of the pledge delegates, and held out hope that he can still close the gap with Mrs. Clinton.
“We still have that road to victory in winning the majority of pledged delegates,” he said.