Time may be running out on Donald Trump’s chances of turning his campaign around and capturing the White House.
Heading into the third and final debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, the GOP nominee still is struggling to recover from taped comments from 2005 in which the billionaire business mogul bragged about forcing himself on women – and the women who, subsequently, have come forward saying he did.
Even as the accusations led to a split between Trump and other Republican officeholders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, the GOP nominee lambasted the women as liars and said the accusations were part of a “conspiracy” against “the American people.”
However, the week saw the Republican slipping further behind Clinton in the polls.
Clinton has had her own troubles last week, particularly a series of hacked emails from campaign chief John Podesta that were released by WikiLeaks. But the contents have been overshadowed by Trump’s scandals.
Now, Trump’s last chance to redefine himself in front of a national audience could come in Wednesday’s debate.
(And sorry, but Ken Bone won’t be there.)
Polls, projections swing toward Clinton
The national polling average continues to pull away from Trump.
Real Clear Politics’ national polling average now gives Clinton a 5.5-point lead. The latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll gave Clinton a national lead of 10 points, 50 percent to 40 percent. The Los Angeles Times/University of Southern California tracking poll, long an outlier in showing a national Trump lead, last week had the two candidates tied.
Unusually, after adding Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party nominee Jill Stein to the mix, Clinton’s lead grows to 5.7 percent according to Real Clear.
The site’s electoral projection still shows Clinton with 256 solid electoral votes, just 14 shy of the majority she would need to win.
Last week, Real Clear moved Utah from “likely” to “leaning” Trump after a new poll showed the candidates tied there, with more than a third of the state’s votes going to third-party candidates.
New Hampshire, previously a Clinton state that has wobbled back and forth in recent weeks, was moved back to a “toss-up” category. But Trump’s campaign also lost Indiana to the “toss-up” category.
Meanwhile, Trump regained Georgia, which Real Clear had labeled a “toss up” since May. That gives Trump 170 solid electoral votes.
When the toss-ups are decided, Clinton wins 340 electoral votes to Trump’s 198, with Real Clear assigning Florida, Maine (minus one congressional district), Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio to Clinton – a total of 80 added electoral votes. Trump wins the swing states of Arizona, Indiana and Iowa, for a total of 33 added votes.
Trump’s odds increasingly desperate
FiveThirtyEight’s election forecast gives Clinton an 86.6 percent shot at winning the election, the Democrat’s highest total in a month. Clinton would win 357 electoral votes under that scenario, taking Iowa, Arizona, and all of Maine’s electoral votes. (FiveThirtyEight’s polls-plus prediction flips Arizona and one Maine district back to Trump.)
Other forecasters give similar numbers.
The Huffington Post’s Pollster average gives Clinton a 7.5-point lead over Trump, 48.7 percent to 41.1, and the Upshot at the New York Times gives the Democrat an 90 percent chance of victory in November.
“We’re spending a lot of time these days diagnosing whether Donald Trump’s position in the polls is merely bad or still getting worse,” writes Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight’s latest projections. “Most of the evidence on Wednesday – which included the first dusting of state polls since the second presidential debate, on Sunday night – fell into the ‘still getting worse’ bucket.”
What of Senate, House control?
While forecasters long have said control of the U.S. Senate is also at stake in this election, Kyle Kondik with the University of Virginia’s Crystal Ball wonders if Trump’s troubles could even put the GOP’s large majority in the House of Representatives at risk.
“Some of the early signs are ominous for House Republicans,” Kondik says. “(I)t’s possible that we could see a Republican collapse down the ballot as we approach the finish line.”
Polling now suggests Republicans will lose some House seats but keep their overall control of the chamber. But, with Trump sliding in the polls and feuding with other Republican officeholders over their lack of support, Konidk wonders if that could change before Election Day.
“What if Trump, who already is kicking free of GOP leaders, decides to go completely rogue and starts advocating for his supporters not to back Republican senators and House members who withdrew their support from Trump?” he writes. “Republicans are confident that voters will split their tickets in their favor, but their bigger fear is that GOP turnout collapses, depriving both Trump and down-ballot Republicans of precious votes.”