The odds of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump coasting to the White House are dimming as he charges into Wednesday's final debate at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas all set to pillory his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton over an attempted email cover up. The US elections have sunk to a circus, but the scandals dogging both the candidates have damaged Trump's poll numbers far more than Clinton.
Wednesday's debate moderated by Chris Wallace of Fox News is Trump's last opportunity to change the pro-Clinton momentum in the final three weeks of the race. Recent polls show voters fleeing Trump after he bragged about how his celebrity allowed him to grab women by the genitals. To make matters infinitely worse, eight women have come forward to say he sexually assaulted them.
"Trump has willfully not done anything to try to appeal to people beyond his narrow voter base and they are still standing by him despite the allegations," said political analyst Cindy Radburn Chastin.
"Trump has a chance in the final debate to do something dramatic, drop his scorched-earth tactics, perhaps even apologize to women sincerely to change the contour of the presidential race. He has to appeal to a larger audience. All his tactics so far have focused too narrowly on energizing his core base. That is not driving up his poll numbers," said Chastin.
Quite clearly, Trump is under pressure to change his election game. Since their first debate in late September, Clinton's poll numbers have gradually shot up. According to Real Clear Politics, Clinton is seven points ahead, her biggest lead since the beginning of August.
"Past polling data shows that three weeks out from the election, polls usually don’t move more than 3.4 points toward either candidate," David Byler, an elections analyst for Real Clear Politics wrote in a piece titled "Trump misses benchmarks, is running out of time."
Three ways Donald Trump could win
Daryl Jones, director of research at Hedgeye Risk Management, suggests there are three "unlikely ways" in which Trump could win: the polls could be wrong; Wikileaks could drop a "bomb" that takes down Clinton, or there could be an "October surprise." "If it’s not Wikileaks, then the conspiracy theorists would have you believe that it will likely be a revelation about Hillary Clinton’s health or her husband that will provide a surprise in the next few weeks and a boost for Trump in the polls. In reality, the Clintons, whether you love them or hate them, have been in the public eye for more than three decades and it’s unlikely there is any sort of October surprise in store," writes Jones in "Fortune" magazine.
Trump supporters are drawing comfort from the fact that pollsters got the 1980 US presidential elections famously wrong. The polls had put President Jimmy Carter ahead of his Republican rival Ronald Reagan by 4 to 5 points on October 1. Gallup then had Carter widening his lead by nine points by October 26, but Reagan went onto trounce Carter and win a landslide victory.
However, a moot point for Republicans clinging to the hope of victory is that women have swung every election since Ronald Reagan. Sadly for the Republicans, this key demographic considers Trump truly toxic. "Turns out, even when you’re famous like Trump, there are some things women won’t tolerate from you," Time magazine quipped in an article cheekily headlined Why Donald Trump Has Already Lost.
Based on 15 battleground state surveys, Clinton is likely to coast to the White House. "Clinton holds a decisive advantage over Trump in the competition for votes in the electoral college, leading in enough states to put her comfortably over the 270 majority needed to win the presidential election in November," according to a new Survey Monkey poll of 15 battleground states conducted with The Washington Post.
However, Trump remains in contention in the three battleground states of Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, according to new CNN/ORC polls. He will try and stay in the saddle by baring his fangs on Wednesday at Clinton and using the WikiLeaks dump to accuse the State Department of trying to cover up during Clinton's email probe.