Three mistakes the Trump campaign can fix

Trump is, second, placing himself further from the center of public opinion than he did in 2016. Back then, he presented himself as a dealmaker and competent manager who would hire the best people, and wasn’t tied to Republican orthodoxy. He talked about reining in Wall Street and ensuring paid leave for new parents. He said he had no objection in principle to socialized medicine. Fewer voters saw him as conservative than had seen previous Republican presidential nominees that way. Over the course of his presidency, perceptions have changed: A lot more voters now consider Trump “very conservative.”

Some of those voters are presumably very conservative themselves, and are happy about how many of his policies have been standard Republican fare. As president, Trump has signed a corporate tax cut but has barely exerted himself to raise infrastructure spending. Occasional rhetoric in favor of gun control has led to almost no action. Governing this way has enabled Trump to enjoy very high support from Republican voters. A large fraction of the people who voted for third-party candidates of the right in 2016 are likely to back him this November. But Trump’s repositioning to the right will probably cost him more votes than it gains him: There is substantial evidence that the perception of moderation is electorally beneficial.

He cannot undo the decisions that have modified his ideological image. But he also doesn’t seem to see a reason to try. He keeps catering to very conservative voters who are already with him rather than working on keeping wavering supporters or winning over nonsupporters.