Hispanic supporters of Donald Trump sat around the cabinet table, praised him and promised: “We will rebuild the United States with you and make America great again.” For a moment, in his White House bubble self-affirmation, it seemed that the President of the United States was still the master of his destiny.
But when journalists questioned him, Trump answered only one. Then it was over. A White House staff member yelled loudly at the assembled media: “Come on! Let’s go! Keep going! Let’s go! Come on, we’re done! Let’s go! “It was a sign of how the president has become less accommodating to hostile media questions than when he thought he was on top.
Trump is in trouble. The coronavirus has killed more than 130,000 Americans, tens of millions of people have lost their jobs, and there has been a tectonic culture shift for racial justice. Opinion polls suggest he is the worst-ranked incumbent since Jimmy Carter was hit by Ronald Reagan in 1980, leaving his Republican party panicked and anxious about the November election for the White House and Congress.
“The mood is probably how it felt when I was on the Titanic,” said Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman. “These cowardly Republicans in the Senate and House know that Trump will be destroyed in November, but they are tied to him and they are going to go with him and they have no choice, and I think they realize that.”
The sinking ship metaphor appears again and again among Republicans interviewed by The Guardian and other media.
Biden leads Trump 52% to 40% in a Guardian / Opinium Research poll conducted in late June. Many other polls agree that the Democrat has a double-digit lead and, most importantly, put him in the lead in six battlefield states. Two out of three people now disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic, according to an ABC News / Ipsos poll, with the percentage of Republicans approving of sinking from 90% in mid-June to 78% now.
Nothing is going well for the President. A campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last month was a failure with thousands of seats empty. Another rally planned for Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Saturday night was postponed due to weather. From his basement, Biden has outraged Trump at fundraising for the past two months in a row.
The president has not even branded his opponent with a pejorative nickname that remains.
Amy Walter, national editor of the Cook Political Report, wrote this week: “This election is more like a Democratic tsunami than just a blue wave … The Republican strategists we’ve spoken to this week think Trump is close to the point. of no return. Others wondered if Trump had reached his ‘Katrina’ moment: a permanent loss of confidence and faith of the majority of voters. ”
She added: “By speaking to strategists on both sides last week, it is also clear that Trump is also dragging Republican candidates to Congress.”
In fact, Republicans realize they could lose everything, with the presidency and the Senate following the House of Representatives, which they surrendered in 2018. The Senate is critical. If Republicans can retain their majority, they can obstruct important parts of the Democratic agenda, just as they did for much of the Barack Obama presidency.
Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona and Thom Tillis of North Carolina are all in the polls. Even Trump’s main supporters, Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, face tough challenges from Democratic opponents who raise huge funds in Kentucky and South Carolina, respectively.
Walsh, who unsuccessfully challenged Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination, said: “I can tell you that, publicly and privately, the conversations I have had are scared, everyone, any Senate Republican on the ballot. I mean, forget Colorado it’s done Arizona is done I think Maine is over Joni Ernst in Iowa is almost done Every race is going to be competitive Democrat Doug Jones has a shot at winning in Alabama Lindsey Graham is serious problems and everyone knows it. “
It is a surprising change in less than a year, as the political and business worlds have lost confidence in Trump. A Citigroup poll of 140 fund managers last December found that 70% expected him to win reelection, but last week 62% said they expect Biden to prevail. That once-impenetrable Republican strengths like Arizona, Iowa, and South Carolina are now at stake is a measure of how much has changed.
Tara Setmayer, a former Republican director of communications on Capitol Hill, said: “People who pay attention internally to the numbers are very concerned and spending money in places they never imagined they would have to allocate resources like New Hampshire, like Georgia, like Carolina. from the south.
“Politics at the national level is a game of numbers. When you have to start spending money in states that were reliably red a cycle ago, you’re in trouble. Clearly, Trump is helping hemorrhages in areas that he needs to win again. His margin of victory was so narrow the last time that he cannot afford to lose anyone, which is why alarms definitely sound within the Republican Party despite Donald Trump’s proclamations on Twitter that he has overwhelming Republican support. ” .
Will Republicans finally disown Trump in an attempt to save themselves? Collins has declined to say how he plans to vote in November, and told the New York Times that he will not campaign against Biden, a former colleague in the Senate. He is also among several senators who have said they will not attend next month’s Republican national convention to reappoint Trump in Jacksonville, Florida.
Elaine Kamarck, principal investigator in governance studies for the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, argues that with every drop in the polls, the cracks in the Republican party increase. “What generally happens in a situation like this is that people just start to go their own way,” she said.
“They just begin to differentiate themselves from an unpopular president. They start saying, “I work with the Democrats” or “I don’t agree with everything the president says.” They begin to indicate to the electorate that they are different. If the trends continue as they have, the bottom line will be: vote to keep the Republican Senate so we can protect ourselves against the worst policies Joe Biden could try to enact. ”
But there are more than three months until the day of the elections. Trump’s base remains fervent. His campaign argues that in this year’s Republican primaries he has set a record for the most votes cast for a sitting president. And he challenged the prophets of the party’s fate in 2016.
Tim Miller, a former communications director for Jeb Bush and a former Republican National Committee spokesman, recently interviewed nine campaign consultants for Republican candidates in Senate and House races for Rolling Stone magazine. Although unidentified individuals expressed views such as “Every bit of evidence points to a likely butt kick in the fall,” writes Miller, support for Trump remains “firm.”
“What I found in his responses was a part of the Stockholm syndrome, a part of the survival instinct,” he explains. “Not everyone may love the president, but most share their hatred for their enemies on the left, in the media, and in apostate Republicans of Never Trump with a passion that spawns an alliance with the president, if not kinship ”
Responding to the Rolling Stone article, Setmayer, host of the Honestly Speaking podcast, said: “It was disheartening to hear that because for those of us on the other side of this we are like, ‘Come on! How much more are you going to take? Are you going to get off the boat or what? You still have a chance here. It doesn’t look like they’re going to do that.
“They can sink with the ship because they feel that the party loyalists are so locked up in Trump that they have no chance if they separate.” That is the calculation.
There was little evidence of mask wear or physical estrangement at the White House on Thursday. Nor, even now, does McConnell seem likely to distance himself politically from Trump in a final attempt to cling to the Senate. Setmayer added: “The Republican Party’s and Trump’s shotgun marriage has gone so far at this point that it would be practically impossible for party leaders to reject it entirely.”