- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2016

As he slides further down in the polls, GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump must dramatically alter his campaign approach or he stands no chance of winning key battleground states like Ohio this fall, and he could even lose reliably red territory such as Arizona, top Republicans warned Sunday.

Mr. Trump remains far behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in national polls, with the former secretary of state’s post-convention bounce helping her open up a sizable lead. A Washington Post/ABC News survey released over the weekend put her 8 percentage points ahead of Mr. Trump, 50 to 42. Other recent polls have given Mrs. Clinton a double-digit advantage.

But national surveys are not Mr. Trump’s biggest problem. Recent polling has him behind in Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire and even solidly Republican Georgia.

Mr. Trump’s rough week — which saw him feud with a Gold Star family, initially refuse to back key Republicans such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in their re-election fights and stumble over foreign policy questions — seems to have caught up with him.

More weeks like that, Republican critics say, could mortally wound his campaign.

In the key battleground of Ohio, a must-win state for Mr. Trump and one in which the polls remain tight, Mr. Trump’s divisive and inflammatory rhetoric will make it difficult, if not impossible, for him to win there, Ohio Gov. John Kasich warned Sunday.

Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Mr. Kasich — who has refused to endorse Mr. Trump, did not attend the party convention in Cleveland and remains one of the billionaire’s toughest Republican detractors — said the billionaire’s appeal is limited in Ohio.

“Can Trump win Ohio? He’s going to win parts of Ohio where people are really hurting. But I still think it’s difficult if you are dividing to be able to win in Ohio. I think it’s really, really difficult,” Mr. Kasich said.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a Republican who also has not yet endorsed Mr. Trump, sounded a similar warning about his own state, which no Democratic presidential candidate has won since Bill Clinton did in 1996 (and the last before him was Harry S. Truman in 1948).

But a CBS News poll released Sunday shows the race there within the margin of error, with Mr. Trump leading Mrs. Clinton by just 2 percentage points, 44 to 42. By contrast, Mitt Romney defeated President Obama by 9 points in Arizona in 2012.

“Yes, it is possible” Mr. Trump could lose Arizona, Mr. Flake said on “Face the Nation” on CBS Sunday, going on to note that Hispanics make up 33 percent of the state’s voting population, and they could be highly motivated to vote against Mr. Trump and his proposed crackdown on illegal immigration.

If Hispanics come out in force against Mr. Trump in Arizona, Mr. Flake said, “It will be a changed ballgame here.”

Other states also seem to be slipping away from Mr. Trump.

The CBS poll found him trailing in Nevada, 43 percent to 41 percent. In Virginia, another key battleground state, Mrs. Clinton leads by a whopping 12 percentage points, 49 to 37.

In Pennsylvania, a state Mr. Trump hoped to put back in the Republican column, Mrs. Clinton is up by 11 percentage points, 49 to 38, according to a Franklin & Marshall College Poll released late last week.

Mrs. Clinton also has big leads in New Hampshire, Michigan, Florida and elsewhere, recent surveys show. But for Republicans, the most alarming poll may have come out of firmly red Georgia over the weekend.

An Atlanta-Journal Constitution poll released Friday gave Mrs. Clinton a 4-point lead over Mr. Trump in the state. Georgia hasn’t voted for a Democrat since Mr. Clinton in 1992, and Mr. Romney carried the state by a comfortable 8 points in 2012.

Despite all of the gloom in the polls, the Trump campaign argues its candidate bounced back in the latter half of last week and has emerged as a more disciplined force ready to do battle with Mrs. Clinton.

“I think we have a unified campaign,” Trump adviser Jason Miller said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program Sunday morning.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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