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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Maurice Tamman

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Even before Sunday night’s vicious presidential debate, Republican Donald Trump was losing ground in many of the states he needs to win to capture the presidency, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos States of the Nation Project analysis released on Monday.

The project estimates that if the election had been held at the end of last week, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had at least a 95 percent chance of winning enough states to reach the minimum 270 Electoral College votes needed to become the next president, based on polling between Sept. 30 and Oct. 7.

Those odds had steadily grown from about 60 percent on Sept. 15 to almost 90 percent on Sept 30. In the last four weeks, her estimated margin of victory has grown from about 14 votes to 118, according to the project.

The polling did not capture reaction to Trump’s performance in Sunday’s debate or the release on Friday of his 11-year-old sexually aggressive comments about women.

The results, however, mirrored other estimates of her chances of winning the campaign.

Statistical analysis outfit FiveThirtyEight, for example, put Clinton’s chance of victory in the election at about 55 percent three weeks ago. Currently, they estimate the odds of a Clinton win at 82 percent. In the same period, the New York Times’ estimates of the odds of a Clinton victory have also increased, from about 70 percent to 84 percent.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nevada and Florida are now leaning toward the Democratic candidate, according to the Reuters/Ipsos project, an online survey of about 15,000 people every week. Iowa is in the too-close-to-call category after being considered a likely Trump state while Arizona has moved from too-close-to-call to the Republican candidate.

More broadly, the state-by-state results show how Trump’s support is sliding. In the last week, he has lost ground in at least 21 states, including in seven of the 18 states where he is leading, while improving his position in 19 states.

Meanwhile, Clinton lost ground in 12 states, including in three of the 23 states where she is leading, and improved her standing in 30 sates.

Based on these results, Trump’s best hope for a victory would require a precipitous drop in the number of Democratic voters going to the polls on Nov. 8 from expected levels, combined with a similarly large increase in Republican turnout.

Trump’s crude comments about groping women and aggressively pursuing a married woman, captured on an open microphone, have sent his campaign into turmoil. The recording, first reported by The Washington Post, was made in 2005, in advance of a cameo appearance on a soap opera.

Over the weekend, numerous Republican elected officials and candidates responded by calling for Trump to step aside.

Trump responded to his waning support among some Republicans by calling them hypocrites. During Sunday’s debate he apologized but said the comments were just “locker-room talk.”

He also attacked Bill Clinton’s treatment of women and said Hillary Clinton should be in jail for her use of a private email server while secretary of state. Trump said that, if elected, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate her.

A nearly yearlong FBI investigation into the emails concluded earlier this year that no charges should be filed, although FBI Director James Comey said Clinton had been careless in her handling of sensitive material.

The sexually explicit comments controversy followed published reports suggesting the Republican Party leadership was having an internal debate about shifting resources away from the presidential race and into U.S. House and Senate races.

The Republicans currently control both branches of Congress. Many experts think control of the Senate could shift to the Democrats, although few are predicting the Republicans will lose control of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Even before the weekend, the Trump campaign had struggled through two weeks of negative news coverage that began with the campaign’s first presidential debate on Sept. 26, which Reuters/Ipsos polling suggested Clinton had won.

Shortly after the first debate, the New York businessman also attacked – in tweets that began in the early hours of the morning – a former Miss Universe whom Clinton had referred to during the debate as an example of Trump degrading women.

Also during that period, a New York Times report detailed how Trump lost nearly $1 billion in 1995, a loss that could be used to avoid paying federal taxes for up to 18 years, depending on his annual income.

Clinton has had her share of woes as well, including the release of hacked emails last week of comments she appeared to have made to banks and big business. In the 2014 comments, she pushes for open trade and open borders, and takes a conciliatory approach to Wall Street, both positions she later backed away from.

IMAGE: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton listen to a question from a member of the audience during their presidential town hall debate at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S., October 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Saul Loeb

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.