Republican allies of President Donald Trump fear that, despite his clear enthusiasm for holding televised coronavirus briefings every day, the spectacle may actually do him more harm than good, according to a report Thursday from the New York Times.
Critics have frequently bemoaned the events, pointing out that they are filled with the president’s misinformation, lies, attacks, and distortions. He often contradicts or undermines the public health experts advising him, subverting the ostensible point of airing the briefings at all. Many argue that he is treating them as replacements for his campaign rallies, which have all been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But as much as Trump clearly loves the attention — and the ratings — the briefings bring, his self-indulgent performances haven’t brought about a huge boost in his approval numbers. And those who want Trump to succeed think he’s not helping his case for re-election.
The Times reported:
Mr. Trump “sometimes drowns out his own message,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who has become one of the president’s informal counselors and told him “a once-a-week show” could be more effective. Representative Susan Brooks of Indiana said “they’re going on too long.” Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia said the briefings were “going off the rails a little bit” and suggested that he should “let the health professionals guide where we’re going to go.”
In interviews, Republican lawmakers, administration officials and members of his re-election campaign said they wanted Mr. Trump to limit his error-filled appearances at the West Wing briefings and move more aggressively to prepare for the looming recession. Some even suggested he summon a broader range of the country’s leaders, including former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, in an all-hands-on-deck moment to respond to the national emergency.
The consternation reflects a new sense of urgency over Mr. Trump’s re-election efforts as Joseph R. Biden Jr. emerges as his likely Democratic challenger. Three new polls this week show Mr. Biden leading the president, and the Trump campaign’s internal surveys show he has mostly lost the initial bump he received early in the crisis, according to three people briefed on the numbers. Public polls show he badly trails the nation’s governors and his own medical experts in terms of whom Americans trust most for guidance.
Trump’s political advisers, the Times reported, were even more scathing in anonymous comments, saying “the White House was handing Mr. Biden ammunition each night by sending the president out to the cameras.”
“At Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign, staff members have closely monitored internal polling data showing an erosion of the gains Mr. Trump made immediately after he put social distancing guidelines in place,” the report continued. “Advisers are torn between knowing that a less abrasive approach would help Mr. Trump and their awareness that he can’t tolerate criticism, regardless of the setting.”
It added: “Mr. Trump’s limited gains in the polls are all the more striking when compared with those made by governors in both parties; many are enjoying double-digit gains in their approval ratings. And Mr. Trump’s penchant for ad hominem attacks, Republicans say, illustrates why he has little room for growth among the electorate.”