Trump in Turmoil: Five Ways Forward for the 2016 Presidential Race

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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump waves to supporters Saturday outside the front door of Trump Tower, where he lives in Manhattan, New York. Mike Segar/Reuters

The incident now known as #trumptapes has shifted the 2016 presidential electoral map and ground game in ways which will only become fully apparent in coming weeks. The only thing certain right now is that these are dark hours for Gotham's Joker, holed up in his black tower with Melania fuming by his side. Over in Hillaryland, the main sentiments are awe ("too insane to believe," as one of her friends put it) and cautious optimism. But October is young, and 23 days of possible surprise remain ahead (plus a few days of November.)

Here are five ways the next four weeks might play out:

More women come forward. Donald Trump's two decades in charge of not one but three national beauty pageants, his self-confessed inability to control his compulsion to kiss beauties on the mouth, and his sense of entitlement when it comes to "grabbing pussy" practically guarantee that the number of women across the country who have experienced unwanted sexual encounters with the New York real estate tycoon and professional modelizer is legion. One of these, Jill Harth, spoke with Newsweek Friday night, essentially confirming his self-described seduction technique. A Miss Utah and another woman, a "friend" of Erin Burnett, have already described how Trump kissed them on the mouth, without being invited to do so—just as he told Billy Bush he was wont to do. In other words, Trump apparently didn't lie about his unusual seduction techniques. If the #trumptapes embolden enough previously reluctant, embarrassed or frightened women to come forward, Team Trump will be in full Roger Ailes/Bill Cosby mode before the election.

Everyone bails but Republicans can't get him to quit. In the space of just one Saturday afternoon, Trump's vice presidential pick told him he's on his own for the next two days; Arizona Senator John McCain, New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, South Dakota Senator John Thune, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo and Utah Senator Mike Lee withdrew their support; the list of other Republican governors and congressmen is growing exponentially. As heart-warming as that might be to the GOP's #neverTrump folks, none of this means they can ditch Trump from the ballot. First of all, more than 34,000 have already cast their ballots for Trump. The party's own rules allow a presidential candidate to be replaced only in the case of "death, declination or otherwise." Death and declination need no defining, but election experts have said "otherwise" only refers to the twilight zone between death and declination. In other words, he can—and has already tweeted his intention to—soldier on, alone.

Mike Pence quits. Some #neverTrumpers are hopefully imagining a scenario in which Trump quits and lets good, generic Republican Mike Pence step in. Ayotte has already announced her plan to "write in" Pence. But it looks far more likely that this will play out the other way around and that the "evangelical Catholic," traditional marriage warrior, and fetus-worshipping Indiana governor will no longer be able to stand beside and behind the New York values libertine who chose him as running mate. In that case, Trump will be free to pick a new veep. The possible permutations are endless of course, but he could do worse than trying to win back some alienated females and minorities by picking Omarosa Manigault, his fellow reality TV star, a stalwart defender and director of his campaign's African-American outreach.

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A discarded hat supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sits on the sidewalk outside Trump Tower in Manhattan on Saturday. Mike Segar/Reuters

Wikileaks finds evidence of actionable crime or some other Hillary-destroying bombshell. The impeccable timing of Friday's #trumptape drop on the Washington Post, coinciding neatly with Julian Assange's latest batch of Russia-hacked Hillaryland emails suggests that Clinton's war room is armed and ready with oppo ammunition. On any other October day, the Goldman Sachs speeches and John Podesta's lobbying ties revealed in the batch of emails would have been headline news, and pollsters would have been detecting new dips in the Democrat's numbers. Now, those pearls of great cyber-price are almost already forgotten. But it's entirely possible that Wikileaks has much more, and even more damaging emails. So it remains to be seen whether both sides have enough dirt to cancel each other out.

Hillary loses the town hall debate. From this vantage point, 24 hours before Sunday night's town hall format debate in St. Louis, it doesn't look good for The Donald. He's coming off a humiliating 48 hours unlike any he's endured in his brief political career. ABC's Martha Raddatz and CNN's Anderson Cooper are on duty as moderators; both are dry, wry, experienced and not his friends. Finally, there is Hillary's Diamond Card status in terms of millions of hours logged on "listening tours" that always look a lot like town halls. It's hers to lose. But, it's still remotely possible. She, in fact, faces the more difficult task, not just to refrain from laughing, but marshalling her poker-face muscles so that no hint of smirk or smugness shows.

Trump in Turmoil: Five Ways Forward for the 2016 Presidential Race | U.S.