Between this and the president forcing his personal pollster to attack CNN the other day, what would the campaign be doing differently if they were *trying* to call public attention to CNN’s numbers?

They might as well finish this off by running TV ads about it. Giant font: “BIDEN 55, TRUMP 41.” Tiny font underneath: “Fake news!”

I’m tempted to look for a strategic angle here but I don’t think there is one. Trump seems to be having a prolonged anxiety attack about his polling right now, for good reason, and his team is doing everything they can think of to hold him together. They leaked an internal poll recently with better numbers for him to boost his spirits; they ran an ad in the D.C. TV market, of all places, to show him that they were fighting hard for him. Now they’re going to casually harass CNN to reassure him that the idea of a 14-point deficit is so ludicrous that it might be legally actionable.

In the letter to Zucker, the Trump campaign argued that the CNN poll is “designed to mislead American voters through a biased questionnaire and skewed sampling.”

“It’s a stunt and a phony poll to cause voter suppression, stifle momentum and enthusiasm for the President, and present a false view generally of the actual support across America for the President,” read the letter, signed by the Trump campaign’s senior legal adviser Jenna Ellis and chief operating officer Michael Glassner.

The campaign formally requested that CNN retract the poll and publish a “full, fair, and conspicuous retraction, apology, and clarification to correct its misleading conclusions.”

The letter, which heavily cites findings by McLaughlin, makes several incorrect and misleading claims.

Among the misleading claims in the letter are Team Trump accusing CNN of using a sample of adults (the Biden/Trump numbers come from a sample of registered voters) and insisting that the poll is flawed because the share of Republicans in the sample (25 percent) is conspicuously lower than it was on Election Day 2016 (33 percent). I addressed that point in my own post about this a few days ago. There’s no reason to think a party’s share of the electorate four years ago will be the same this fall. But to the extent that 25 percent is noticeably low, it’s mainly due to the share of independents in CNN’s sample (44 percent) being noticeably high. That’s because indies tend to identify more strongly with one party or the other as we get closer to the election; right now, five months out, many are still making up their minds. E.g., the share of Democrats in CNN’s sample (32 percent) was *also* lower than the share of Dems who turned out in 2016 (36 percent). As indies on the left grudgingly reconcile themselves to Biden and indies on the right grudgingly reconcile themselves to Trump, the share of self-identified Democrats and Republicans in polls will rise.

Why might Trump and his campaign be feeling extra anxious about polling today? Here’s one likely reason from Gallup:

Thirty-nine percent isn’t the lowest job approval he’s had, as you can see, but he’s completely unelectable at that number. He’s down seven points with Republicans and independents since the last poll, and his 85 percent approval among GOPers is the lowest he’s since the fall of 2018. Whether that’s because he’s been too soft on rioters or too disinterested in racial reconciliation (or both) is unclear, but it is what it is.

His campaign is right that the CNN poll is an outlier. In no other survey this year has he trailed by as much as 14 points. But even the more realistic polling results lately are unsustainable if he’s going to be reelected. Here’s the RCP scoreboard of the last nine polls taken this month:

It’s a safe bet that Biden’s leading nationally by about seven points right now, and seven points is too big a deficit for Trump to somehow thread the needle in the electoral college like he did in 2016. (Seven points was Obama’s margin over McCain in the 2008 blowout.) Nate Cohn looked at the polling to see why things have gotten so much darker for the president lately and found three key groups drifting further away. One is women, who are destined to go big for Biden (Hillary won them by 14 four years ago) but who look to be going mega-big for him right now (25 points). Another is Trump’s base of white voters without a college degree. They still lean towards Trump but not as strongly as he needs them to: He won them by 29 points in 2016 but leads Biden among them by 21 now.

And then there’s senior citizens.

Remarkably, Mr. Biden still leads by seven points among voters 65 and over in the most recent surveys, despite the kind of racial unrest that led many of these voters to support Republican candidates at various points in their lifetimes. It should be noted that Mr. Biden’s lead among older voters is somewhat narrower than it was a few months ago, either reflecting the statistical noise of small sample sizes or reflecting the toll of recent events. Yet it is still a commanding strength for Mr. Biden compared with Mrs. Clinton’s five-point deficit among this group four years ago.

If Trump can’t win seniors back at a moment when race-related riots are happening in America’s streets he’s probably never winning them back. The best he can do is hold down Biden’s margin within the group and try to make up the deficit elsewhere. That effort could start with — I don’t know, maybe not suggesting that a 75-year-old whose head was cracked open after a cop shoved him had it coming?

Amid all this, newspapers have taken to running schadenfreudean stories about Senate Republicans fretting over Trump’s slipping numbers, but there’s really nothing for them to do strategically except stick with him and hope for the best. Brendan Buck, formerly Paul Ryan’s right-hand man, is exactly right: “I continue to believe that there’s really no political upside to running away from [Trump]. You gain nothing and you raise the ire of not just the president but people who support him.” If you’re Susan Collins, you’re not going to impress centrist voters by finally ditching Trump seven months before the end of his term but you will piss off a lot of Trumpers, who’ll remember on Election Day. So just grin and bear it, and hope that Politico is wrong about this: “Trump allies fear the election is now shaping up as a simple referendum on Trump and his performance in the White House — with recent polling showing Trump losing ground with noneducated white voters, senior citizens, Catholics and evangelicals.”

Oh, and as for the letter to CNN from Trump’s advisors, I’m not sure what sort of legal threat they’re making. You can’t claim defamation just because a pollster used a questionable sample. Maybe they’re suggesting fraud? I don’t think they’re suggesting anything, really, beyond showing Trump that they’re willing to fight! even when they don’t have a leg to stand on.

Update: CNN answers, mainly by making fun of Trump pollster John McLaughlin’s own questionable record of polling results.