Trump’s terrible week takes a toll in polls

Donald Trump is intensifying his anti-establishment rhetoric to shore up his core support after a week of lurid headlines and sliding poll readings leave him with a narrowing pathway to the presidency.

Polls this week suggested his attacks on Hillary Clinton during Sunday’s debate in St Louis have failed to translate into a boost among voters, as Mr Trump is hit by a series of allegations that he groped women.

The RealClearPolitics polling average on Friday had Mrs Clinton’s lead equal to its highest in two months, at 6.7 points. Mr Trump is now facing vertiginous climbs in a number of key states including Pennsylvania and Virginia, while in all-important Florida recent polls have shown him marginally behind Mrs Clinton.

A Trump adviser explained that the property baron is seeking to fire up his core base of support while aiming to depress turnout among Clinton voters, which his team views as a loose and unenthusiastic coalition. The campaign is seeking to achieve the latter by relentlessly hammering away at her use of a private email server, controversies surrounding the Clinton Foundation and allegations by women against former president Bill Clinton.

The moves suggest that the campaign is no longer focused on broadening his reach to middle-of-the-road voters such as suburban women. “There does seem to be a bit of a scorched earth philosophy going on here,” said Julia Clark, a pollster at Ipsos. “He is in full attack mode … Trump is fanning the flames.”

In an attempt to steady his campaign, Mr Trump gave a dark speech on Thursday in Palm Beach, Florida, in which he suggested a broad-based establishment conspiracy was thwarting his prospects, pointing to reports in which women accused him of unwanted advances as a sign that the media is working with the Clinton campaign to undermine him.

Mr Trump’s team began the week believing he had received a lift from his energetic performance in Sunday’s debate at Washington University, St Louis. But polling after the debate by CNN suggested Mrs Clinton was judged by voters to have won.

The campaign has since been unable to shake itself free of the fallout from a tape released last Friday in which he was caught boasting of aggressively groping women.

He is in full attack mode. Trump is fanning the flames

Michelle Obama, the first lady, on Thursday delivered an excoriating denunciation of Mr Trump, describing his comments as shocking and demeaning and below “basic standards of human decency” in a speech that aimed to mobilise women against the businessman. President Obama on Friday in Cleveland attacked Republicans for only belatedly withdrawing their support for Mr Trump, as part of an attempt by Democrats to swing the Senate and House in their favour in November. “Some of them now are walking away. But why did it take you this long?” he asked.

During the week a series of women have come forward in various media reports to say that Mr Trump had in the past made unwanted advances on them — allegations the property developer denied on Thursday. His campaign pledged to provide evidence they were false.

He faced another accusation on Friday after a female photographer told the Washington Post that he had groped her more than two decades ago in a Manhattan bar. Kristin Anderson said Mr Trump, who she had not realised was beside her, put his hand up her skirt and touched her genitals before she shoved him away. Mr Trump’s campaign strongly denied the “phoney” claim.

A Fox News poll that gave Mrs Clinton a seven-point lead suggested the claims are costing Mr Trump among women. Since last week, the largest declines in support for Mr Trump were among women aged 45 and over, where there was a 12-point slide, the poll showed. Readings among voters aged 65 and over were down 11 points, and among suburban women were down 10 points.

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Mr Trump’s enthusiasm advantage over Mrs Clinton has also been eliminated compared with a week ago. Some 63 per cent of his backers “strongly” support him, less than Mrs Clinton’s 66 per cent.

The property baron is now facing steep climbs in a number of states that are critical to his chances in November. The Trump campaign has pulled some resources out of Virginia, where polling averages put Mrs Clinton at 6.7 points ahead. The last time a Republican won the presidency without Virginia was in 1924.

In Pennsylvania a Bloomberg Politics poll this week gave Mrs Clinton a nine-point lead and showed her dominating in four critical suburban counties, an advantage that could overwhelm Mr Trump’s position in rural parts of the state. Her lead in polling averages for Ohio, another critical state, is far narrower, at just 1.6 points.

In Florida, which carries 29 electoral votes and is central to Mr Trump’s prospects, polling averages give Mrs Clinton a narrow 2.7 point lead, according to RealClearPolitics. Michael McDonald, a voting expert at the University of Florida, said the advantage Republicans normally enjoy over Democrats in early voting by mail was more slender than in the previous cycle, judging by ballot requests.

The Clinton campaign also received a boost during the week after a judge extended the voter registration deadline because of disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew. Mr McDonald said: “Most likely it would benefit Clinton because the people who are unregistered tend to be younger, poor and minorities.”

additional reporting by Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington

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