DES MOINES, Iowa — With roughly three weeks to Election Day, Republican strategists nationwide publicly concede Hillary Clinton has a firm grip on the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House – and may be on her way to an even more decisive victory over Donald Trump.

“He is on track to totally and completely melting down,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayers, who is advising Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s re-election campaign. Like many Republican strategists, he was willing to speak publicly about the GOP nominee’s rough road ahead at the end of an unprecedented campaign.

Things can change before Election Day. There is one more presidential debate, and Trump has rallied before. His core supporters remain strongly committed.

But along with indicators such as polling, campaign travel, staffing and advertising, the interviews with Republican political professionals unaffiliated with the Trump campaign suggest only an epic collapse by Clinton would keep her from winning enough states to become president.

Preference polling in the past week, meanwhile, has generally moved in Clinton’s direction, with the Democrat improving in national surveys and in a number of contested states.

Only Ohio is a toss-up, but the perennial battleground may not play a decisive role come Election Day this year due to Clinton’s strength – and Trump’s weaknesses – elsewhere.

Trump and running mate Mike Pence have made a hard play for Pennsylvania, a state carried by the Democratic nominee in the past six elections. But their strategy to hold down Clinton in Philadelphia and its suburbs while running up Trump’s vote total in more conservative parts of the state has failed to materialize.

“He’s getting his brains beat in by women in the Philly suburbs,” said Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster who is surveying presidential battlegrounds and several states with races for U.S. Senate.

Educated women living in suburbs have long been a key part of the Republican coalition, but polls indicate that revelations about Trump’s behavior have pushed them toward Clinton. The events have also foiled Trump’s late-in-the-campaign plan to re-ignite his hope of carrying Wisconsin. Trump and Pence were to campaign with House Speaker Paul Ryan in his home state a day after the 2005 video was made public. Ryan withdrew his invitation to Trump, and Pence later canceled.


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