President Donald Trump's campaign team have been trying to steer him away from the culture war battles that keep him in the spotlight, but increasingly push voters away.
Some top aides have advised him to lay out plans for reviving the economy, while Karl Rove and other informal advisers have urged him to announce a second term agenda focused on immigration, trade and energy, and chief of staff Mark Meadows has pushed him to appeal to white suburban women with a law-and-order message, reported Politico.
“He has been spoiled with his successes, but I’m not sure it is the same atmosphere as it was in 2016,” said a Republican who's close to the White House. “The problem is when he gets off on the tangents on the Confederate flag. I’m not here to defend that.”
The president's garnered a lot of attention with his tweets about NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace and the racing association's ban on Confederate flags, but GOP strategists just don't see a path to victory this year with inflammatory comments and conspiracy theories.
“People do not care about Michael Flynn or Biden’s kids,” said Ed Rollins, chair of the Pro-Trump Great America PAC. “Those issues are complicated. People care about whether you can lead the country through these two crises of a pandemic and a recession.”
So far, Rollins said, the president has failed and voters see that.
“I thought when the virus broke out and the economy fell apart, it gave Trump an opportunity to step up and show what kind of leader he could be, but he certainly did not do it well,” Rollins said. “If we are sitting here on Labor Day with these polling numbers, we will not turn it around.”
Trump aides are reluctant to bring him bad news or challenge his hunches, so the re-election campaign is still working on developing a coherent and consistent message, some associates admit.
“The challenge is to find the discipline to stick to the messages and to keep coming back and hammering on them,” said Trump ally Newt Gingrich. “When Trump is on his A game, he is the best politician in the country. They just have to keep him on his A game for three months.”
But the challenges he's facing now don't seem likely to change in the coming months, and voters want to hear how the president will improve their lives in his second term.
“These swing voters want to know, ‘How do I get my normal life back? What has to happen to get my normal life back?’” said another Republican close to the White House. “They are paying attention to news and politics more than any time in their lives. If I am the Democrats, I am happy about it because they are paying more to the idiocy of Trump, but they are also paying attention to the extreme machinations of the left.”