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Story highlights

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were tied at 26% in ruby-red Utah

Trump's path relies not only on keeping all the states that Mitt Romney won in 2012, but also Pennsylvania

(CNN) —  

Donald Trump cast himself in almost messianic terms Thursday in Florida, describing the presidential race as “a struggle for the survival of our nation” and vowing to win the White House despite all the “slings and arrows” being hurled in his direction.

But 25 days before the election, Trump’s path to the 270 electoral votes needed to capture the presidency is looking more and more impossible by the day, as states he once said he’d flip from blue to red increasingly slip out of his reach. Meanwhile, reliably red states threaten to turn purple.

Trump’s odds of a win were spiraling downward days before the 2005 “Access Hollywood” recording that surfaced last week and depicted him bragging about his ability to grope women as a perk of his celebrity. Since then, his support has collapsed – particularly among women. A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Clinton with a 9-point lead and a new national Fox poll released Thursday night that had Clinton at 45% and Trump at 38% in a four-way race.

In the most stunning development of the week, Trump and Clinton were tied at 26% in ruby-red Utah, with virtually unknown independent candidate Evan McMullin closing in on third place with 22%, according to a survey from Y2 Analytics.

“He’s at a point where he’s trying to draw an inside straight now by campaigning primarily in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina,” said veteran GOP pollster Whit Ayres. “He is well behind in Pennsylvania; he appears according to the latest polls to be effectively tied in North Carolina and Ohio; and he’s behind in Florida.”

“Donald Trump said he would put new states in play,” Ayres said, but he noted wryly that he never thought they would be the red states of Utah, Arizona and Georgia. Clinton’s campaign has already invested resources in Arizona and is marshaling forces in Georgia as they eye ways to expand the map for down-ballot races.

And this is before allegations this week from a growing number of women who have accused him of unwanted sexual advances. Trump has vehemently denied those accusations, and there is no data yet to gauge whether he will suffer further fallout in the polls, but it’s another issue that has knocked Trump off-message with time running down before Election Day.

“The map looked strong for Clinton at the start of this race and it’s looking even stronger for her toward the end of it,” Ayres said. “If a landslide is winning in the Electoral College by more than 100 votes, Clinton is on track to do that now.”

Because of Democrats’ advantage in the Electoral College, Trump’s path to the White House relied not only on keeping all the states that Mitt Romney won in 2012, but also seizing Democratic turf in states like Pennsylvania.

Clinton held a 9-point lead in Pennsylvania, according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll released Thursday. Most striking was her lead in the Philadelphia suburbs – the place where many strategists believe this race will be won or lost. A startling 56% of suburban Philadelphia voters said they were supporting Clinton, compared to 28% for Trump.

What female voters in Philly suburbs really think

Even if Trump were to win the mighty battleground states of North Carolina (where Clinton currently has a 4-point lead), Ohio, Nevada and Florida, he would still fall short of the 270 electoral votes that he needs to win. That means he would have to make up ground in Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin – all states where he is trailing far behind her, according to new polls.

Democrats have long been confident about their ability to win Colorado, where both Trump and Clinton visited recently And they are increasingly bullish about their chances in Nevada, another state Clinton hit this week.

In another blow to Trump’s campaign on Thursday, Republican sources confirmed that Trump was pulling his resources from Virginia, a state that has seen a huge influx in the number of foreign-born citizens and large growth among Asians, who have increasingly tilted toward Democrats in recent years.

Because of demographic changes in Arizona and Georgia, those two states appear to be closer this year than in 2012 when Romney won them comfortably. Democrats had already made inroads with the large African-American population in Georgia, and been buoyed by the growing Hispanic population in that state. But Clinton has also shown particular strength this cycle among college-educated white women voters in the suburbs of Atlanta.

While campaigning in Colorado this week, Clinton urged her supporters to get their friends out to vote in Utah and Arizona. “We are competing everywhere, and the polls are tightening because I think Americans want a turnout in as big a number as possible to reject the dark and divisive and hateful campaign that is being run by my opponent.”

Many Republican strategists still expect Trump to hold on in Utah and Arizona, even if he loses the race. But Democrats believe they are laying the groundwork for 2020 and beyond.

Fox News national poll: Clinton leads Trump by 7

“In the same way President Obama helped build up registration in the African American community and among millennials, Donald Trump is offering new opportunities for Democrats to make gains,” said Bill Burton, a former Obama adviser.

Burton noted that in California, for example, registration among Latinos has grown exponentially, “and you’re seeing that trend across the country. It’s opening doors that wouldn’t otherwise be open…. Donald Trump is inspiring a whole new generation of voters to go out and get registered, and get engaged, it’s really helping Democrats build up our network.”