by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Trump entered the campaign’s two final weeks downplaying the coronavirus and mocking White House pandemic adviser Anthony Fauci even as aides insisted his closing message against Democratic nominee Joe Biden was focused on the economy and seniors.
Trump said Monday during a conference call with campaign staff that reporters were invited to listen to that people are “tired” of the coronavirus, adding, “People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots.” The president repeated similar lines later in the day on Twitter and during a campaign rally in Arizona, a battleground he won four years ago but where Biden leads on the strength of support in suburban Phoenix.
To boost Trump’s flagging support with seniors, his campaign, in conjunction with the Republican National Committee, announced a new television spot for Michigan, another swing state where the president trails, targeting seniors on healthcare. A Trump confidant conceded the president might not follow the plan.
“The campaign’s message and the president’s message don’t necessarily” match up, this Republican operative said. “Sometimes, the president sticks to the script — but he riffs a bunch.”
Nevertheless, Trump’s riffing earned him the White House in 2016.
Biden leads Trump by 8.9 percentage points nationally in the RealClearPolitics average of recent polls. The former vice president holds a smaller lead of 4.1 points in the competitive battleground states.
Republican insiders, including those counseling the Trump campaign, want the president to concentrate on his plans for rebuilding the economy during the final 14 days of the race while differentiating his agenda from Biden’s “socialism.” The issue is a priority with voters, and they still give Trump high marks for his handling of the economy despite a pandemic-induced recession. But Trump has other ideas.