Hillary Clinton has once again taken a clear lead in the presidential race, surging ahead of Donald Trump in the polls after the Republican nominee's disastrous debate performance and ensuing meltdown.
Clinton now holds a 4-point lead over Trump in RealClearPolitics' four-way national average, with her current level of support higher than it was after the Democratic National Convention in July — in which she saw a huge polling bounce.
Her lead is higher than President Barack Obama's average polling lead over GOP nominee Mitt Romney at this same point in the 2012 race.
Clinton has also led nearly every swing-state poll taken after the debate, save for Ohio, once again raising questions about whether Trump has a plausible path to the 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win the White House in November. RealClearPolitics' polling averages show Clinton on track to win 322 electoral votes to Trump's 216 — compared with Clinton's 272-266 edge before their Sept. 26 debate.
Prior to the debate, polling showed Trump either ahead or within striking distance of Clinton, after he had a few weeks in which he stuck to the teleprompter and a coherent message devised by his campaign.
But at the debate, Trump sniffed and scowled his way through the 90-minute matchup with Clinton.
He fell into almost every trap Clinton set for him, including saying he was "smart" for not paying taxes, and going on the attack against a former Miss Universe winner who Trump fat shamed in the 1990s and continued to fat shame in the days after the debate.
Since the debate, the New York Times published a snippet of Trump's leaked 1995 tax returns, which call into question his business prowess because the returns showed he lost nearly $1 billion that year.
Trump's charitable foundation also received a cease-and-desist order from the New York state attorney general, as it had been operating without the proper permits.
And Trump and his campaign surrogates have gotten into a mud-slinging match, bringing up Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs — despite the fact that Trump and his top surrogates Rudy Giuliani and Newt Gingrich all cheated on their previous wives.
To be sure, the next debate on Sunday provides Trump with an opportunity to stop the bleeding in his campaign.
But it's unclear whether two weeks of preparation will be enough to help him perform better in the debate.
Similarly, the town-hall setting of the next debate is filled with potential landmines for Trump, as he's proven his instinct to attack anyone who questions him — even sympathetic characters like the Khans, the Gold Star military family whose son died serving in Iraq.
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