I understand why Trump nemeses like James Carville and Joe Scarborough would want this suspicion to circulate. I don’t understand why Fox News would.
BREAKING— (thread)GOP operatives are for the first time raising the possibility that @realDonaldTrump could drop out of the race if his poll numbers don’t rebound. Over the weekend I spoke to a sample of major players; one described Trumps current psyche as “fragile.” I’m
— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) June 28, 2020
That said the speculation indicates how tense GOP operatives are about Trump losing and the party losing the senate and having their entire agenda abolished in a leftist wave election. Again lots of time and Trump has endured a horrible couple of months but that’s the snap shop
— Charles Gasparino (@CGasparino) June 28, 2020
Gasparino is a senior correspondent for Fox Business. Fox News showcased his tweets today in a story entitled “Rough polling stretch has GOP operatives asking: Could Trump drop out?” They added this:
“It’s too early, but if the polls continue to worsen, you can see a scenario where he drops out,” one GOP operative who asked to remain anonymous told Fox News.
“I’ve heard the talk but I doubt it’s true,” another said. “My bet is, he drops if he believes there’s no way to win.”
Uh, were those “GOP operatives” Rick Wilson and John Weaver?
Anti-Trumpers like the idea of Trump quitting in disgust before the election, not just because it would hasten his departure from office but because it would do so in a particularly humiliating way. And it would serve as “just desserts” for the establishment Republicans who’ve cowered before him over the past four years: “You sold your souls and he repaid you by quitting on the party in the home stretch of an election.” It was inevitable that Carville and Scarborough would be drawn to the idea. But why would “GOP operatives” be drawn to it, at least enough to whisper about the possibility to Fox?
Do they really think the party would be better off with Pence at the top of the ticket, swapped in suddenly on Labor Day, say?
I find that hard to believe given the cultish devotion Trump’s fans show him but I suppose it’s possible. Hypothetically, Trump’s polling against Biden could deteriorate so badly — 60/30, say — that having him quit and replacing him with our generic Republican VP would be a net gain on Election Day. If Trump were forced out, enough Trumpers would boycott the election as to make a Republican victory impossible. That’s why the nascent effort at the convention in 2016 to block him from the nomination never got traction. It was a suicide mission. But if Trump were to quit voluntarily, Trumpers would have less reason to stay home in indignation. And some who did stay home might be offset by suburbanite swing voters who are momentarily in Biden’s corner but might be lured back to the GOP with a less Trumpy figure at the top of the ticket.
Two flaws in that master plan, though. As I said on Friday, there’s no reason to think Trump would consider it. As “fragile” as his mind may be right now, he proved with the “Access Hollywood” episode in 2016 that he can fight through serious trouble and win against all odds. He’ll never be convinced this year that all hope is lost. Second, even with all the trouble he’s having with the pandemic and the anti-racism protests, he’s still hanging tight at around 40 percent. That’s his core base, probably his electoral floor. It’s hard to imagine what else could happen to him at this point that would knock, say, another 10 points off of that support among people who’ve stuck with him until now. Forty percent is his worst-case scenario, and he’s not quitting if he’s at 40 percent. With that number, he could bounce right back into contention with some good economic or vaccine news in October.
He does sound a little “fragile” lately, though:
Sorry to inform the Do Nothing Democrats, but I am getting VERY GOOD internal Polling Numbers. Just like 2016, the @nytimes Polls are Fake! The @FoxNews Polls are a JOKE! Do you think they will apologize to me & their subscribers AGAIN when I WIN? People want LAW, ORDER & SAFETY!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2020
Politico reports today that Trump reluctantly has come to the conclusion that he’s trailing right now after many weeks of doubting that his slide in the polls was really happening. A noteworthy quote from former aide turned frenemy Sam Nunberg: “He’s going to be facing realistically a 400-plus electoral vote loss and the president would need to strongly reconsider whether he wants to continue to run as the Republican presidential nominee.” Nunberg thinks the magic number at which Trump will start looking for an exit is 35 percent head-to-head with Biden. I think it’d need to be worse than that, as he’d cling for a long time to the very real but fading possibility of a massive economic recovery this fall to miraculously revive his campaign. And there’s always a chance that he and his team will find a line of attack on Biden that does real damage, enough to restore Trump to his 2016 position as the lesser of two evils in the race.
But if they’re already at this stage of desperation, I wouldn’t bet on it:
Trump has recently been asking advisers whether he should stick with his current nickname for Biden — “Sleepy Joe” — or try to coin another moniker, such as “Swampy Joe” or “Creepy Joe.” The president is not convinced that “Sleepy Joe” is particularly damaging, and some of his advisers agree and have urged him to stop using the nickname. In a tweet on Sunday, Trump tried out yet another variant: “Corrupt Joe.”
After all of the missteps of the past two months, it’s almost poignant that he thinks he might be one nickname away from turning the race around. This is one of his singular qualities as a politician: He doesn’t even try to adapt. He’s so convinced that his winning formula in 2016 is a winner under any circumstances that he keeps hammering the stuff that worked last time. Nicknames for enemies, screeching about hoaxes and fake news, tough-guy bravado on the protests when most of the country wants to see some empathy, even the bizarre choice to go all-in on ending ObamaCare at a moment when voters are desperate to retain coverage in case they get COVID. (“Republican officials and strategists working on competitive campaigns were privately aghast Friday at the administration’s decision to reignite the issue….”) This is why I think there’s no chance he quits, though. He’ll never be convinced that him just being himself and letting it rip won’t work now as well as it worked four years ago. The country loves him, no? There’s no political problem that can’t be solved but him becoming even Trumpier.
He finally got an encouraging poll today after a long run of truly terrible data. Trafalgar, the pollster that famously detected his upset wins in the Rust Belt in 2016, has him ahead of Biden by a point in Wisconsin, the same margin that Trump won by in 2020. Last week the NYT found Biden ahead there by 11. Someone’s wrong. We’ll have a better idea who soon. Exit quotation: “[Obama] has never seen Mr. Biden’s campaign as a proxy war between himself and Mr. Trump, his aides insist. But he is, nonetheless, tickled by the lopsided metrics of their competition of late.”