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Donald Trump's campaign appears to be slipping into death spiral

Trump in a death spiral: Ben White

Donald Trump's presidential campaign appears to be slipping into a death spiral and the Republican nominee is running out of chances to turn things around.

In just the last week, Trump entered into a unwinnable war of words over the weight problems of a former Miss Universe including a bizarre 3:00 a.m. Tweet storm, claimed his opponent may be cheating on her husband, blamed a bad microphone and an unfair moderator for his disastrous debate performance and sawThe New York Times reveal that he took a $916 million tax loss in 1995 and may have paid no income tax for nearly two decades.

On Monday morning, The Associated Press reported on Trump's alleged sexist and boorish behavior on the set of "The Apprentice" and the Center for Public Integrity alleged that Trump's real estate business rented office space to an Iranian bank that U.S. authorities say has links to terrorism.

And Trump woke up Monday to fresh polling showing the debate tilted the race heavily back to Hillary Clinton. The latest Politico/Morning Consult poll shows the Democratic nominee surging to a 6-point lead after leading by just 1 ahead of the debate. And a new poll out of swing-state Virginia now shows Clinton up 7 in the state.

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Trump is also not getting much of an assist from his top surrogates. In an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called Trump a "genius" for the giant tax loss and said the GOP nominee's wizardry would be better for the nation than "a woman." For good measure, Giuliani threw in that "everybody" engages in extramarital affairs.

Trump's only chance to win is to make the election a referendum on Clinton and the economy. But it's easy to forget these days that Clinton is even in the race and the economy is basically an afterthought. As I've pointed out repeatedly in the past, Trump's favorite subject is Trump and he will never tolerate the campaign being about anything other than Trump.

Trump supporters apparently believe he is still capable of change, even though he has repeatedly shown no interest in shifting course. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told The New York Times that this long-awaited metamorphosis could still arrive.

"He has gotten himself to the edge of the mountain, he can get himself to the top of the mountain, but to do that he has to be willing to make real change," Gingrich said. "I really want him to understand that he can win this. He is the one person who can beat him — not Hillary."

Gingrich is not wrong about this. Clinton remains highly distrusted and mostly disliked by the American people. She is struggling badly with younger voters who are flirting with the third-party candidates. Majorities still view the nation as on the wrong track, usually an ominous sign for the incumbent party. And the GOP nominee could probably set himself on fire and still count on around 40 percent of the electorate to support him.

And Trump is not entirely out of chances. The vice presidential debate on Tuesday will begin to reframe the race though it will certainly prove a giant ratings drop from the first Trump-Clinton showdown. And then Trump has a chance on Sunday night to turn in a more disciplined debate performance and put the focus back on Clinton's weaknesses including her email scandal, the Benghazi attack, her Wall Street ties and the soft economy.

Trump has trailed badly before and brought the race back to even. He still has just enough time to do that again. And he remains ahead in Ohio and close to even in Florida, Colorado and a handful of other swing states.

Republicans including Roger Stone are also suggesting that Wikileaks this week could release the "mother lode" of damaging emails and other information about Clinton. We've heard this refrain for months now but perhaps it will finally turn out to be true.

And all the "Trump could turn this around" narratives rely on the idea that he is capable of becoming a totally different candidate. The Sunday debate in St. Louis is also a town hall format in which candidates must take questions from and interact with regular folks. Clinton is very practiced at this kind of thing while Trump is not. He could shock everyone and be a friendly, relatable guy in the debate and launch a brand-new strategy that reverses his sliding poll numbers and once again makes 2016 a referendum on Clinton. And the Easter Bunny could also be real.

—Ben White is Politico's chief economic correspondent and a CNBC contributor. He also authors the daily tip sheet Politico Morning Money []. Follow him on Twitter @morningmoneyben.