Appearing on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Monday, former Republican National Committee head Michael Steele said Donald Trump is being forced to "double down" on his culture war rhetoric because his internal polling is seeing a substantial portion of his base falling away from him in major part because of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking with co-host Willie Geist, Steel said the president's speeches over the July 4th weekend were an attempt to resurrect themes from the 2016 campaign in order to stem the bleeding of support he'll need if he wants to be re-elected.
"What is the strategy behind this?" Geist prompted. "Again, he's plowing everything into a base he has locked up, if you look at his numbers and has had locked up about five years from now. It doesn't appear there's any olive branch or extension of those who may be considering voting for him. It's just solidifying the people he has."
"It's us against them at this point and the reality is that the Trump campaign is facing is the 'us,' which is the base of support that you referred to -- a lot of the Republicans on Capitol Hill that have sort of curried the president's favor in a number of areas -- that is actually weakening some," Steele replied.
"The numbers are showing, both internal and external polling, showing that that hard 95, 96 percent of the Republican base that's behind the president is now down around 84, 85 percent," he reported. "There's been slippage. There has been some weakening of the reception of that message because, guess what, that base is also now impacted by COVID-19 as we see across the country in the red states. And the president also is feeling the impact; his base is feeling the impact of the economy, which is not recovering at the pace -- even though the great jobs numbers last week are good to see -- the reality is businesses are opening, but the people aren't going out and shopping."
"You would think that would be something the president would step into, but that's not what his base wants to hear, what they want to talk about, so he's doubling down on those things that have motivated their anger, their frustration, and that what he talks about in his Mount Rushmore speech, and folks are scratching their heads and going 'what do you mean by us? Aren't us all of us?"