Bleachgate broke almost simultaneously with polling showing that Trump and Senate Republicans were faring poorly in swing states. Bleachgate, combined with the bad poll numbers, terrified Republican operatives, but Bleachgate could not have caused the bad poll numbers.
What caused Trump’s rally-round-the-flag effect to be so feeble and transient? Why has Trump’s party lost ground in Senate polling? The timing doesn’t fit Bleachgate. An explanation that better fits the timing is that Trump’s flirtations with the diehard opponents of social distancing limited the upside of his bounce as he both associated himself with an overwhelmingly unpopular cause and appeared irresolute at a time when the public wanted steadiness.