Has Donald Trump finally run out of time — and chances — to win?

It’s less than five weeks until Election Day — sort of. Millions of Americans will have voted before Nov. 8 by absentee or early ballot. For many voters (up to 40 percent of the total electorate, by some calculations), only a week or two remains to persuade them to change their minds. In the wake of his rotten debate performance and more than week-long downward spiral, Trump is now behind by a small but clear margin nationally and in a series of swing states, raising the question: Is there time for a comeback?

Historically we are getting close to the point of no return. In early 2012, Barack Obama was ahead by a few points; he won by 3.9 percent. In 2008, Obama was 5 to 8 points ahead of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in early . He won by 7 points. What about 2004? President Bush was 2 to 3 points ahead; he won by 2.4 percent.

In late October 2008, Gallup surveyed polling between 1952 and 2004. It found: “There have been only 2 instances in the past 14 elections, from 1952 to 2004, when the presidential candidate ahead in Gallup polling a week or so before the election did not win the national popular vote: in 2000 (George W. Bush) and 1980 (Jimmy Carter). And in only one of these, in 1980, did the candidate who was behind (Ronald Reagan) pull ahead in both the popular vote and the Electoral College and thus win the election.” In 1980, however, there was a just a week before the election.

Aside from the clock running down, Trump has multiple factors working against him.

First, he regularly demonstrates that he is out of control, unhinged and erratic. If he doesn’t get a grip on himself immediately, he is likely to fall even further behind.

Second, the number of undecided voters is shrinking. Democrats who were “parking” their vote with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson now are returning to Hillary Clinton. (The four-way and two-way polls are converging.) With so many voters dead set against Trump, there are fewer and fewer voters left for Trump to snag.

Third, the questions about Trump’s taxes are only starting. Voters by large margins think he should disclose his tax returns and think he is hiding something. Some voters are none too pleased with the idea that he paid no taxes. And there may be more revelations to come that highlight his business failures, his lack of philanthropy and his tax reduction schemes. (If you’re not going to pay taxes, you might want to contribute to society via charity — but not Trump, who brags about using other people’s money.)

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Ethan Miller/Getty Images presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during a rally at the Henderson Pavilion on October 5, 2016 in Henderson, Nevada. Trump is campaigning ahead of the second presidential debate coming up on October 9 with Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Fourth, he’s on defense virtually nonstop, meaning that he is not presenting any affirmative case for voters to switch to him. In the primary, he could use one outrageous comment to blot out another. His media show overshadowed 16 other candidates struggling for attention. Now, he is drowning in a downpour of bad-news stories — all of which make him out to be an ignorant, bumbling bully.

Fifth, the sexually charged comments he made on a hot microphone in 2005 about how he could “grab (women) by the p—y” have lost him the of several Republican leaders. A group of more than a dozen Republicans from Alabama to Wisconsin and Utah, including senators and congressman, withdrew their for Trump and encouraged him to step down. Many have called for Trump’s running partner Mike Pence to take his place. In reaction, Pence said he couldn’t condone the comments and that he was praying for Trump’s family. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Republican National Committee chairman, Reince Priebus also condemned the attacks but stopped short of asking him to resign. Trump refused to do so anyway, claiming he’s from anything in his life.

Finally, the second debate, which could prove as disastrous as the first, comes up on Sunday. He apparently has not been studying up on issues, so virtually any policy issue might embarrass him and point to the difference in preparation for the presidency between the two candidates. He should be particularly that one of the moderators, ABC’s Martha Raddatz, is quite the expert on foreign policy and may zero in on his views on Vladimir Putin, NATO, the military (which he defames regularly) and the myriad international issues about which he is ignorant.

Consider the topics that could prove troublesome: – How did you lose $916 million? Would losing $2 billion be twice as smart?
– How is it a sign of “” to lose $916 million?
– When have you ever paid federal income taxes? How much?
– Why would you insinuate with no proof that Alicia Machado made a sex tape? That Clinton is cheating on her husband?
– After the past couple of weeks, how can you say your temperament is your strongest quality?
– Did you spend donations intended for the foundation on yourself or to settle business disputes? Why did you never get the foundation certified – were you concerned about an audit?
– Do you realize post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious mental health issue and not a question of being “strong”?
– Did Russia in your eyes commit war crimes when it allegedly bombed an aid convoy? When it or its allies shot down a civilian airliner? You still think Putin is preferable to Obama?
– Did you rent office space to an Iranian bank with terrorist ties?
– Why do you never apologize to anyone?

That’s just a partial list. And, as we have pointed out, telling a moderator or Clinton that they don’t understand his “genius” in avoiding taxes is a far cry from confronting face to face an undecided voter in a town-hall format.

Moreover, there is no reason to believe (short of gagging him) that Trump’s handlers can prevent him from interrupting, rolling his eyes and otherwise appearing obnoxious during the debate. And let’s not forget: There is a very good chance that Clinton will bait him again with new material. It worked so well the first time, you have to think that she would try it again. You do wonder what Trump will do the next time he feels slighted, mocked or defeated.

In sum, Trump theoretically has time to get his act together, reverse the momentum, put the focus back on Clinton and win over millions of voters (a significant majority) who think he is not prepared to be president. As a practical matter, if he does not pull off a major shift in public perception very soon, he will be what he disdains most of all: a loser.

With files from National Post 

About Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post