In the days after the Senate confirmed Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a wave of optimism washed over Donald Trump’s West Wing. White House aides were buoyed by internal polling conducted by former Trump campaign pollster Tony Fabrizio indicating that Republicans could conceivably hold both the Senate and the House in the forthcoming midterm elections, according to a person briefed on the data. “Trump’s mood was great,” a former West Wing official who spoke with him told me.
But as next Tuesday’s voting approaches, the mood inside the West Wing has darkened. The arrest of Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc for allegedly sending more than a dozen pipe bombs to the president’s political enemies, in addition to a horrific mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue by an avowed white nationalist, completely upended the dynamic. As The New York Times’s Peter Baker recently noted, Trump has been frustrated by his own inability to control the news cycle. Meanwhile, Fabrizio has leveled with the president’s advisers that Democrats will take the House, the source briefed on the polling told me. Trump has responded to this worsening political environment with extreme frustration. “He was really upset the momentum had been killed by the pipe bombs,” one Republican close to the White House told me. Another former White House official in touch with colleagues said that Trump’s mood has been grim. “The president is self-destructing,” the official said.