Report: Trump campaign thinks chances of winning North Carolina have "all but evaporated"

I call BS, as there’s hardly anything in the public polling data to support this. In fact, North Carolina was named last week by Biden campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon as one of two states where the race is much closer than national polling would have you believe. (Arizona was the other.) Team Joe sees a three-point lead in NC, which almost exactly matches the public polls. Four years ago, Trump performed nearly three points better in North Carolina on Election Day than the polls expected.

So why would his campaign be sweating a three-point deficit now, to the point where they supposedly believe NC is a lost cause?

Doesn’t add up, *unless* there’s been a very recent break towards Biden there that the public polls haven’t picked up yet. The most recent public survey concluded on October 14, five days ago.

Internally, the Trump campaign is increasingly worried that the president’s chances of winning North Carolina, a state the team has heavily invested in and views as essential for Trump’s path to victory, has all but evaporated. The campaign had viewed the state as “super safe” as recently as just a few weeks ago, sources told ABC News.

Advisers now fear that, because the state counts and reports both day-of and mail-in votes together on election night, losing North Carolina could be a clear white flag.

I’m also calling BS on the idea that Team Trump saw NC as “super safe” until a few weeks ago. Just look at this graph tracking the polling in the state over the last three months:

Trump recovered from his summer swoon in NC in mid-August and it’s been a dogfight ever since, with Biden opening a small lead after the first presidential debate and Trump’s COVID diagnosis. Unless the public polls are wildly off, at what point of the last three months would you have looked at that data and thought, “Yeah, this seems rock solid for Trump”?

Whatever the truth of the state of the race there, it can’t be overstated how important North Carolina is to his chances. It’s the only state that shows up in all three paths to victory that Bill Stepien has reportedly envisioned for the campaign. It’s not especially rich in electoral votes — 15, which is less than Michigan and only slightly more than Arizona — but winning it would give Biden lots of breathing room in the Rust Belt. If he wins NC, he can afford to lose any one of Wisconsin, Michigan, or Pennsylvania so long as he wins the other two. If he wins North Carolina and Arizona, he can win the presidency by adding either Michigan or Pennsylvania. (Winning AZ is distinctly possible. “I’ve never seen a Republican president with numbers like this in Arizona,” said one person close to the campaign to Politico today.) NC is a must-win for Team Trump to the same degree Florida and Pennsylvania are. If it really is true that his path to victory there is disappearing, the election is over.

This Times report, which the president himself is tweeting angrily about today, suggests that some inside the operation have already reached the “hospice care” stage.

Among some of Mr. Trump’s lieutenants, there is an attitude of grit mixed with resignation: a sense that the best they can do for the final stretch is to keep the president occupied, happy and off Twitter as much as possible, rather than producing a major shift in strategy…

Rather than drawing a consistent contrast with Mr. Biden on the economy, strategists say, the president’s preference is to attack Mr. Biden’s son Hunter over his business dealings and to hurl personal insults like “Sleepy Joe” against a candidate whose favorability ratings are much higher than Mr. Trump’s…

“The president appears to have doubled down on a base election strategy,” [Republican strategist Ken Spain] said, “while Republicans down ballot must figure out a way to appeal to independent voters in states like North Carolina and Maine and Michigan.”

Reading that feels vaguely like listening to someone talk about caring for a dying pet. Just keep him comfortable. Let him have some fun where he can.

If you’re wondering how Trump is doing in Trafalgar’s numbers, they haven’t surveyed NC in more than a month but the last time they checked in they found the president leading by a shade under two points. Trafalgar’s man in charge, Robert Cahaly, spoke to Rich Lowry recently about why his numbers tend to look so much rosier for Trump than those of the rest of the industry do. You’re welcome to read that here. Other experts in the field were unimpressed with his reasoning:

We’ll know in 15 days who was right and who wasn’t.

I’ll leave you with this clip, in which a host at Fox News, of all places, warns the president to stop obsessing so much in public about Fox News’s hobbyhorses and start talking to voters about the things they care about, like the economy. A source told ABC in the piece quoted up top that “If Trump goes down, the big story will be how the campaign blew so much money and wasn’t able to be up in key battleground states in the final stretch,” which is sort of true. Trump did have a big financial advantage, he blew through it, and now Team Biden is riding their “green tsunami” to a huge advantage in ad spending down the stretch. (Biden’s campaign and Democratic outside groups have reserved twice as much airtime as Trump’s campaign and GOP groups for the period starting tomorrow through Election Day.) But I’ll forever believe that a president who’s achieved the degree of media saturation that Trump has doesn’t benefit much from advertising. His public appearances are his “ads.” If he were using those appearances wisely, as he did in 2016 in making a populist case against Hillary, he’d be benefiting. He’d rather talk about Hunter Biden and Anthony Fauci. The die is cast.

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