Report: Internal polling shows Trump behind in Georgia -- and Kansas

Report: Internal polling shows Trump behind in Georgia -- and Kansas

He won Kansas by 20 points four years ago. I don’t think I’d even bother linking a public poll showing him behind in Kansas now. The electorate’s moved considerably towards Democrats over the past six weeks, but “considerably” means eight or nine points, not 20.

He’s not going to lose Kansas. But if Kansas is even remotely competitive…

This NYT piece has lots of interesting tidbits beyond the polling numbers, including Jared Kushner pointing fingers at Brad Parscale and the president himself allegedly pointing fingers at Kushner. Which we already sort of knew.

In addition to public surveys showing him losing decisively to Joseph R. Biden Jr. in a number of battleground states, private Republican polls in recent weeks show the president struggling even in conservative states, leading Mr. Biden by less than five points in Montana and trailing him in Georgia and even Kansas, according to G.O.P. officials who have seen the data

One Republican official who is in frequent contact with the campaign expressed incredulity at how some aides willfully distort the electoral landscape to mollify Mr. Trump, recalling one conversation in which they assured him he was faring well in Maine, a state where private polling shows he’s losing…

Equally revealing — at a moment when Mr. Trump is bleeding support from independents and some moderate Republicans — is how often his advisers pacify him by highlighting his standing with voters he largely has in hand: those who participate in party primaries…

What mystifies many Republicans about Mr. Trump is why he is so unwilling to take easy steps that could help remedy his political difficulties.

I’ve been mystified by that myself. Probably no president in recent American history has had a political base more devoted to them than Trump has, yet on issue after issue he keeps trying to please them when it’s voters in the center who are drifting away towards Biden. “He is who he is. People know who he is. You think he’s going to change?” said Sen. Rick Scott to the Times. If he goes on to lose big to Biden this fall, that question will confound historians. Why didn’t he adjust his strategy? Any other politician would look at the state of play right now and conclude that (a) he needs to show much more seriousness of purpose on the virus, if only to prove to wary senior citizens that he grasps their anxiety, and (b) he needs to show a little more empathy towards protesters, if only to prove to wary white college grads that he’s interested in racial reconciliation. It looks increasingly like he won’t do either.

Is it because he can’t or because he won’t? If he won’t, is it a narcissistic thing in which he believes his own instincts are infallible, whatever the polling might say? (Some Trump aides told the Times that their internal polling shows the race tighter than public polling does, but that’s unlikely if there’s any truth to the claim that he’s trailing in Kansas.) Or is it an anxiety thing in which he’s terrified of alienating a few of his most ardent fans, even if doing so would lose him the election? He can try to tack to the center, *maybe* get reelected, but lose the adulation he enjoys on the right, or he can stay to the right on all issues, very likely lose, but remain an icon afterward among Republican populists.

Which outcome would someone with Trump’s psychological make-up prefer?

Part of the problem may be that he’s allegedly seeking advice privately from Tucker Carlson, the one guy doing more than anyone else in major media right now to try to convince Trump to double down on culture-war material like battling the left over monuments and criticizing Black Lives Matter:

With Donald Trump’s approval sinking to Jimmy Carter levels and coronavirus cases spiking across the country, Trump is reluctantly waking up to the grim reality that, if the current situation holds, his reelection is gone. Republicans that have spoken with Trump in recent days describe him as depressed and “down in the dumps.” “People around him think his heart’s not in it,” a Republican close to the White House said. Torn between the imperative to win suburban voters and his instincts to play to his base, Trump has complained to people that he’s in a political box with no obvious way out. According to the Republican, Trump called Tucker Carlson late last week and said, “what do I do? What do I do?”

To console himself, Trump still has moments of magical thinking. “He says the polls are all fake,” a Republican in touch with Trump told me…

A Republican strategist close to Mitch McConnell told me that Republicans have Labor Day penciled in as the deadline for Trump to have turned things around. After that, he’s on his own.

No, he isn’t. People continue to indulge this silly scenario in which Senate Republicans “abandon” Trump, which is something that might plausibly happen with a conventional president who’s beholden to his party but can’t possibly happen with an outsider as self-centered as Trump is. If McConnell were to start criticizing him, Trump would start encouraging his fans to punish him and the caucus for disloyalty and end up taking the whole party down with him.

The GOP’s only shot is to convince him that he’s in trouble and needs to start doing things differently, right now. The Times claims that Chris Christie sent Trump a memo a week ago warning him that he’ll lose if he keeps trying to re-run the 2016 campaign against Biden. There’s a story in the WSJ today whispering that tech billionaire and major Trump 2016 booster Peter Thiel intends to sit out the election this time and focus on supporting Republicans downballot as he “doesn’t believe the campaign has settled on a winning argument to convince the electorate to stay the course.” (“One person who speaks to Mr. Thiel about politics says he described Mr. Trump’s campaign as the ‘S.S. Minnow.'”) The obvious argument open to POTUS is “Biden would be worse,” the same lesser-of-two-evils pitch that worked so well for him four years ago, but that’s a hard sell when the country’s beset by an endless pandemic and civil unrest and mass layoffs.

To phrase that differently, and in Trump’s defense: Could any president get reelected if they were saddled with what he’s saddled with right now? They could adjust to the circumstances better than he has and improve their polling in a way he hasn’t been able to, but could they actually win? That’d be daunting, especially against a perfectly generic challenger like Biden whom people have no strong reason to dislike (or like).

Speaking of which, here’s the latest ad from Team Trump. I think this is their best play against Biden at the moment, but you can imagine how much more effective an attack like this would be against a true radical like Bernie Sanders than it is against Sleepy Joe. Weirdly, the Times claims that Trump’s inclinations *aren’t* to go negative against Biden despite the fact that that strategy delivered for him against Hillary Clinton. “Several people in touch with Mr. Trump and his campaign said the president strongly preferred seeing positive ads about his own accomplishments to negative ones about Mr. Biden,” the paper reports. No doubt ads like that are gratifying to his ego, but his accomplishments are already largely priced into his stock and no one’s going to care much about tax cuts in November if the virus rages uninterrupted from now until then. He’s better off trying to make Americans fear and loathe his enemy, which is normally his specialty in political battles. It’s bizarre that he’d veer away from that approach now — although he hasn’t done so entirely, as you’re about to see.

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David Strom 5:21 PM on March 31, 2023