Trump running out of time
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Feds say marijuana ties could prevent immigrants from getting US citizenship Trump approval drops to 2019 low after Mueller report's release: poll MORE is facing a moment of truth after one of the worst weeks of his campaign. 

Republicans and independent observers alike assert that Trump needs to turn things around — and fast — with only five weeks to go before Election Day.

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“You’re either playing offense or defense — and if you’re playing defense with five weeks to go, you’re losing,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, a Trump supporter.

But O’Connell and others note that this week presents some opportunities for Trump.

His running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence: Mueller report confirms 'no collusion, no obstruction' Melania Trump, Karen Pence say they're ready to serve four more years in White House The Turkish rupture could cause a fissure in NATO MORE, could give him an assist with a strong performance against Virginia Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Democratic proposals to overhaul health care: A 2020 primer Dems ask Justice Dept to release findings of Acosta-Epstein investigation MORE in the sole vice presidential debate, which is set for Tuesday. 

Trump, meanwhile, will have a chance to make amends for a widely criticized performance in the first presidential debate when he and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' Seth Rich's brother calls for those pushing conspiracy to 'take responsibility' MORE clash again on Sunday in St. Louis. 

In between, the GOP nominee’s team has suggested that he will seek to turn the spotlight on Clinton and her husband, former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonImpeachment? Not so fast without missing element of criminal intent Mueller makes clear: Congress must investigate whether Trump obstructed justice Trump team spurns Adam Smith with its trade stance MORE, and how they amassed a considerable fortune after leaving the White House in January 2001.

Trump’s senior communications adviser, Jason Miller, on Monday issued a statement alleging that almost all of Hillary Clinton’s income had “come from paid speeches and trading access.”

Trump himself has sought to juxtapose his record in business with Clinton’s in government, tweeting on Sunday morning, “I have created tens of thousands of jobs and will bring back great American prosperity. Hillary has only created jobs at the FBI and [Department of Justice]!”

But Trump needs to show discipline in making those kinds of charges — and hope they gain quick traction. Most of the news is ominous for his campaign right now.

A nationwide CNN/ORC poll released Monday gave Clinton a lead of 5 percentage points. A Monmouth University poll the same day showed Clinton with a double-digit lead in Colorado, where Trump held two rallies Monday in an attempt to narrow that gap. A third poll, from Bloomberg, showed Clinton ahead by a single point in North Carolina, a state that was once reliably Republican but has now become a battleground.

Clinton has also taken the lead in nearly every significant battleground poll since the first debate.

All of those factors amplify the sense that the past seven days have been bad for Trump. In addition to his debate misfire, he got into a public feud with a former Miss Universe, was hit by a New York Times exposé of his taxes and suggested — without evidence  — that Hillary Clinton had been unfaithful to her husband. 

Trump has tried to turn some of these factors to his advantage. Surrogates such as former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani have argued that Trump’s use of tax laws is evidence of his “genius.” The nominee himself said at one of his Monday rallies that “fixing our broken tax code is one of the main reasons I'm running for president.”

The New York Times story noted that Trump had declared a loss of more than $900 million on his 1995 tax return, an amount so large that the newspaper posited that it could have wiped out any federal income tax liability on income up to $50 million per year over 18 years.

The ensuing controversy is sure to take up a considerable amount of time this week — and that may be time that Trump cannot spare.

“In one way, this is a very critical week. But in another way, I think it is too late,” said Grant Reeher, a professor of political science at Syracuse University.

Reeher argued that too much “damage” had already been done to Trump’s candidacy by controversies stretching back many months and that there was not enough time to change the trajectory of the race, absent some extremely dramatic development. 

“The only thing that is going to make a difference now is something from the Clinton camp — a major mishap,” he said. “We’re not talking here about stumbling getting into your car. We’re talking about losing your train of thought so badly in a debate that people literally think you are having a seizure.”

Some Trump supporters are investing hope in a different kind of drama. 

WikiLeaks will hold a Berlin news conference on Tuesday, at which it is expected to release new information unflattering toward Clinton — though no one is sure what is in store. 

Wikileaks released emails between Democratic National Committee staffers that embarrassed the party as its national convention opened in Philadelphia this summer. Controversial Trump backer Roger Stone asserted on Twitter that Clinton would be “done” in the wake of the new disclosures.

Trump’s supporters believe their man still has a fighting chance — and they emphasize how fast the polls can change. After all, the GOP nominee had almost erased Clinton’s once-comfortable polling advantage before the first debate.

But they also acknowledge that he has little room for error left.

“I don’t know that it’s too late,” said O’Connell. “But the window is certainly closing for Trump.”