Later today Donald Trump will campaign in Wisconsin and Hillary Clinton will be in Pennsylvania. It will be a typical day on the campaign trail: People will show up to these rallies, and there will likely be press coverage on the local news.
But with 84 days to go, the 2016 presidential election might essentially be over, barring something totally unforeseen. While this year has been filled with unpredictable politics, every day that goes by without Trump shaking up his campaign is one day closer to Clinton becoming the next president.
It’s like when the New England Patriots have the ball with a 17-point lead midway through the third quarter. It’s possible the other team could come back, but it’s probably time to turn off the game and rake the leaves.
Here’s where things stand: Clinton needs 270 Electoral College votes to win in November. By looking at polling in individual states, NBC News projects she is on track to have 288 electoral votes to Trump’s 174, with 76 remaining up for grabs. Yes, this means that Trump could win every other toss-up state (including Florida and Ohio) and still lose.
But not just NBC News sees the landscape in this way. The main super PAC backing Clinton just announced it will temporarily stop airing ads next month in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia because, aides said, Clinton’s lead in these swing states is solid enough. They are now considering advertising in traditionally Republican states like Georgia and Arizona, where the political climate has shifted enough that polls show the race in these places statistically tied. Clinton’s own team, meanwhile, on Tuesday morning named a slate of people who will head up the transition team.
Trump promised that this would be a different election where Republicans would be on offense competing in Democratic states. Last weekend he held a rally in deep blue Connecticut, where he doing better than other Republicans but nowhere close to winning. He said he would do well in his home state of New York, but a poll yesterday showed him down by 30 points there.
There are examples of candidates who were down and had something of a late surge at the end; Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and Gerald Ford in 1976 come to mind. But unlike Trump, both had their party establishment behind them. Oh, and both of them lost their elections anyway.
At the moment Trump isn’t even in the midst of plotting a comeback. Instead, he is in his third really bad week on the campaign trail. For Trump to win he will need to stop the bleeding and run a flawless campaign from here on out. Either that, or Clinton would have to disqualify herself somehow.
It’s a tall order, and time is ticking off the clock.