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.
(Corrects in seventh paragraph that Arizona now leans toward Trump, instead of being too close to call.)