According to a report from Politico, the Republican party leadership has grown increasingly panicked over the downward slide in Donald Trump's approval numbers that could spread and cripple the entire party before the November election.
More concerning to the party leadership is an internal battle within the Trump 2020 campaign over the strategy to halt the plummeting numbers as the president continues to fumble his way through the coronavirus health crisis that has led to over 51,000 American deaths so far.
According to Politico's Alex Isenstadt, "Senior Republicans and President Donald Trump’s campaign are wrestling with how to best position him for November as the coronavirus poses a grave threat to his reelection."
According to the report, Trump’s poll numbers are "sagging in key battleground states six months out from the election," which has the Republican National Committee out making the affirmative case for the president while the president's campaign is still deciding whether to play defense of offense.
"Over the past few weeks, the Trump campaign has unveiled a digital ad savaging Biden over his relationship with China. It also launched a weekly online program dubbed "War Room" in which presidential advisers take aim at the former vice president on an array of issues. The campaign has also weighed a major TV offensive going after Biden," the report states. "
The deliberations illustrate how the highest ranks of the Republican Party are grappling with the uncertainty the coronavirus crisis has injected into the race — and how best to prepare for a general election that looks nothing like what they'd been anticipating."
"There are indications that Trump’s response to the crisis is taking a toll. His campaign’s internal polling shows that the president’s initial bump in managing the virus has dissipated, according to a person familiar with the results," Isenstadt wrote, adding, "An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released over the weekend revealed that voters thought Biden would do a better job than Trump in managing the virus by a 9-point margin, and new surveys show Trump trailing Biden in Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania."
While fear of losing the White House is a major concern of the Republican leadership, there are also worries Trump's collapse could hurt down-ticket Republicans who may become collateral damage due to the president's failings and faltering approval numbers.
"Alarm about Trump’s standing is trickling to down-ballot races. A Fox News poll released earlier this week showed the GOP candidate trailing 13 percentage points in the Michigan Senate race, a contest the party has been targeting aggressively," the report states and one notable GOP campaign consultant agreed it was a problem.
“Historically, it is important for the president to be competitive in battleground states not just for his own race, but to enable an environment that is strong enough for statewide and down-ballot candidates to have the footing they need to run successful campaigns," explained Republican strategist Nick Everhart.
Within the campaign, there is a divide between those who want to go after presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and those who want to focus on the president's accomplishments.
"White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, has also advocated for playing up Trump's accomplishments in responding to the crisis. She opposed the reelection campaign’s idea to wage a TV advertising offensive against Biden on China," the Politico report states. "Others say there’s little public appetite in a slash-and-burn campaign at a time when Americans are suffering."
"Ultimately, it is Trump himself who is likely to determine how and when to engage Biden. The president recently chose to delay the proposed TV assault on Biden over China, according to two people familiar with the decision," Isenstadt wrote before adding, "But during a Tuesday briefing, Trump noted that 'there's been nobody tougher than me on China,' and pointed out that he made the country a centerpiece of his 2016 campaign. The same could well be true this time."
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