NEW YORK • Mr Donald Trump's intensifying battle with his own party is tearing open the nation's political map, pulling Republicans across the country into a self-destructive feud that could imperil dozens of lawmakers in Congress and potentially throw conservative-leaning states into Mrs Hillary Clinton's column.
Democrats are moving swiftly to exploit Mr Trump's crumbling position in the presidential race following the release of a 2005 tape that featured the billionaire tycoon making lewd remarks about groping women.
Democrats aim to run up a big margin of victory for Mrs Clinton and extend their political advantage into the congressional elections, which will be held on Nov 8, the same day as the presidential election. Mrs Clinton's campaign has concluded that at least two traditionally Republican states, Georgia and Arizona, are realistic targets for her campaign to win over.
And Republican polling has found that Mr Trump is at dire risk of losing Georgia, according to people briefed on the polls, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Mrs Clinton now holds such a strong upper hand that Priorities USA, a super political action committee backing her campaign, may direct some of its war chest money into Senate races, two people said, and may begin broadcasting ads for those contests as early as next week.
CLINTON WIDENS LEAD OVER TRUMP
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has fallen further behind Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, according to polls conducted by various media and research organisations after a 2005 tape in which Mr Trump talks about grabbing women's genitalia was uncovered. Below are the results of some polls:
Others/Not sure: 18%
NBC NEWS & WALL STREET JOURNAL
Others/Not Sure: 17%
Others/Not sure: 8.7%
In a signal of Democrats' growing focus on the House and Senate, Mrs Clinton used a visit on Tuesday to Miami to attack both Mr Trump and Senator Marco Rubio, whom Mrs Clinton blasted for what she described as his indifference to climate change.
"We need to elect people up and down the ballot, at every level of government, who take it seriously," Mrs Clinton said.
Increasingly anxious Republicans have not come up with a unified strategy for containing the damage from Mr Trump's embattled candidacy.
But, in a sign that Republicans now view the presidential race as a lost cause, several Senate candidates are preparing ads asking voters to elect them as a check on Mrs Clinton in the White House.
Mr Trump himself, having been rejected in recent days by dozens of Republican elected officials, has indicated that he will make any separation an exceptionally messy and painful ordeal for the party.
He lashed out publicly on Tuesday at two of his best-known critics: Senator John McCain of Arizona, who withdrew his endorsement of Mr Trump over the weekend, and Mr Paul Ryan, the Speaker of the House, who informed congressional Republicans on Monday that he would no longer defend Mr Trump.
Seething on Twitter, Mr Trump attacked Mr Ryan as "weak and ineffective" and described Mr McCain as "very foul-mouthed".
He declared himself a liberated man, writing on Twitter: "It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to."
There is little Republicans can do to control Mr Trump's behaviour: The party's donors have no leverage over him, he is relying largely on small donors, and at age 70, he is not mindful of any future campaign.
Indeed, a poll published on Tuesday by NBC News and Wall Street Journal found that three-fourths of Republicans believed their candidates should stay loyal to Mr Trump.
Meanwhile, the top United Nations human rights official said yesterday the world will be in danger if Mr Trump becomes president.
"If Donald Trump is elected on the basis of what he has said already... I think it is without any doubt that he would be dangerous from an international point of view," UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al Hussein told a news briefing in Geneva, citing Mr Trump's views on vulnerable communities and his talk of authorising torture in interrogations.