U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses a running campaign at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix of Arizona Aug. 31, 2016. (Xinhua/Zhang Chaoqun)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has been trailing in the polls recently, faces an uphill struggle to catch up in the 2016 presidential race.
Trump and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton were neck-in-neck just before the Democratic National Convention in later July, but since then Clinton has surged forward, and is now 4.4 points ahead, according to Wednesday's Real Clear Politics poll average.
Still, some individual polls show the race tightening, as Trump has become a more disciplined candidate over the past week, avoiding his trademark offensive statements that work well with his Republican supporters but turn off moderates.
The usually brash billionaire has recently toned down his rhetoric, made serious policy speeches, and argued point-by-point why he believed a Clinton presidency would be a disaster for the United States.
"Trump has done a better job staying on message over the last week. He has focused on fundraising controversies at the Clinton Foundation and argued that this raises doubts about Hillary Clinton," said Darrell West, vice president and director of governance studies of the Brookings Institution.
This suggests Trump has some potential to tighten the race if he can keep attention focused on Clinton rather than himself, West told Xinhua.
Moreover, some establishment Republicans, previously opposed to the unconventional and irreverent Trump, may be starting to come around and support him, as they' d rather have a Republican in the White House - any Republican - than Clinton.
Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, told Xinhua that the tightening of some polls between Trump and Clinton "reflects a natural point where some wayward Republicans decide to choose Trump because they are reflexively opposed to Clinton and the Democrats-no matter their qualms about Trump's candidacy."
However, Mahaffee added, Clinton appears to be still holding strong in important swing states like Virginia, and is giving Republicans pause about traditionally Republican states such as Arizona and Georgia.
Mahaffee said that Trump faces a tough challenge in catching up with Clinton, as the Democrats enjoy a natural advantage among urban voters, young people and minorities.
"Combine that with significant concerns about Trump among moderates and educated voters, and even with further Clinton scandals, (Clinton) will be able to rely, to a certain extent, on that almost built-in lead in the polls," Mahaffee said.
At the same time, Clinton has shown herself to be a resilient candidate, who is able to weather the storm of controversy after controversy.
The Democratic candidate has been embroiled in multiple scandals in recent months, including allegations that her private charity foundation, the Clinton Foundation, gave high-rolling donors special access to her while she was secretary of state.
Clinton's email scandal is also ongoing, in which she used a private email account and private server to conduct business during her time in that office. Critics said she jeopardized U.S. national security by not using a government-issued and secure email account.
The website WikiLeaks has also released information showing an allegedly cozy relationship between a nationally known CNN correspondent and the Democratic National Committee, in the form of an email regarding handing the reporter questions to ask on air.
This is a big no-no in American journalism, as reporters are expected to come up with their own questions in order to avoid becoming a public relations tool for government.
Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told Xinhua that Clinton could well hold on to her lead despite these scandals.
"The data shows pretty clearly that Clinton is in a good position and Trump is struggling. Obviously change is possible but now it is not a tight race," he said.