“WHAT DO I DO? WHAT DO I DO?”: TINYHANDS DESPERATE, DESPONDENT AS NUMBERS CRATER, “LOSER” LABEL LOOMS
“They probably won’t have” the Jacksonville convention. The Joni Ernst campaign is angry at Trump’s horrible numbers. Meadows and Kushner are at loggerheads over Parscale. And if things don’t turn around by Labor Day, GOP defections may begin.
JULY 2, 2020
With Donald Trump’s approval sinking to Jimmy Carter levels and coronavirus cases spiking across the country, Trump is reluctantly waking up to the grim reality that, if the current situation holds, his reelection is gone. Republicans that have spoken with Trump in recent days describe him as depressed and “down in the dumps.” “People around him think his heart’s not in it,” a Republican close to the White House said. Torn between the imperative to win suburban voters and his instincts to play to his base, Trump has complained to people that he’s in a political box with no obvious way out. According to the Republican, Trump called Tucker Carlson late last week and said, “what do I do? What do I do?”
To console himself, Trump still has moments of magical thinking. “He says the polls are all fake,” a Republican in touch with Trump told me. But the bad news keeps coming. This week, Jacksonville, Florida—where Trump moved the Republican National Convention so he could hold a 15,000-person rally next month—mandated that people wear masks indoors to slow the explosion of COVID-19 cases. According to a Republican working on the convention, the campaign is now preparing to cancel the event so that Trump doesn’t suffer another Tulsa–like humiliation. “They probably won’t have it,” the source said. “It’s not going to be the soft landing Trump wanted.”
Neither the Trump campaign nor the White House responded to requests for comment.
Trump remains furious at his son-in-law Jared Kushner, whom he blames for the campaign’s dismal poll numbers. Axios reported this week that Trump complained privately that Kushner’s advice on criminal-justice reform damaged Trump politically. But because Kushner is family, sources say it’s unlikely that Trump will formally strip him of authority.
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Kushner’s vast sway over West Wing decisions has become a flashpoint between him and Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, sources say. The two have been engaged in a cold war over control of the campaign. Meadows pushed Trump to replace campaign manager Brad Parscale, a Kushner ally, the Republican close to the White House said. Kushner wasn’t happy that Meadows is close with Kushner’s adversaries Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie. “Meadows is in real shit. He went to war with Jared and tried to get Brad out,” the Republican, briefed on the internal debate, told me. A couple weeks ago, Meadows unloaded about Kushner over dinner with his predecessor, Mick Mulvaney, at Sette Osteria near the White House. “All Mark did was complain how much operational control Jared has and how it leaves very little space for the chief of staff,” said a Republican briefed on the conversation. “Mark whined to Mick, ‘why didn’t you warn me before I accepted the job? There’s nothing for me to do.’”
Nervous Republicans worried about losing the Senate are now debating when to break from Trump. Trump campaign internal polls show Trump’s level of “strong support” dropping from 21 to 17 points since last week, a person briefed on the numbers said. A source close to Iowa Republican Joni Ernst’s campaign said Ernst advisers are upset that a solid seat is now in play. “Joni’s campaign is pissed. They should not be in a competitive race,” the source said. ("This is completely false," an Ernst campaign spokesperson said in a statement. "Folks are energized about re-electing Joni Ernst, President Trump and the rest of Republican ballot in Iowa this November.") A Republican strategist close to Mitch McConnell told me that Republicans have Labor Day penciled in as the deadline for Trump to have turned things around. After that, he’s on his own.