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Trump is reportedly in denial about his campaign’s bleak internal polling

This is fine.

Trump at the White House on Monday during an event to celebrate the winner of the Indy 500.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

During campaign rallies since he’s become president, President Donald Trump has repeatedly dismissed polls that reflect poorly on him as somehow representing “suppression,” or not including the 10 percent of people he thinks support him but refuse to say so publicly.

But his denialism about bad polling now reportedly extends to polls conducted by his own campaign.

As Politico recently detailed, the Trump campaign put together a 17-state polling project that found the president lagging behind Democratic frontrunner Joe Biden in key battleground states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. But according to the New York Times’s Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman, after he was briefed about the “devastating” polling, Trump told his aides to deny it and instead tout polls showing him doing better.

From the Times:

After being briefed on a devastating 17-state poll conducted by his campaign pollster, Tony Fabrizio, Mr. Trump told aides to deny that his internal polling showed him trailing Mr. Biden in many of the states he needs to win, even though he is also trailing in public polls from key states like Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania. And when top-line details of the polling leaked, including numbers showing the president lagging in a cluster of critical Rust Belt states, Mr. Trump instructed aides to say publicly that other data showed him doing well.

Along the lines of “other data” that shows him doing well, Trump on Monday evening tweeted a poll from his favorite pollster, Rasmussen, showing his approval rating at a relatively robust 50 percent.

But there are a couple of reasons not to give much credence to Trump’s tweet. First, as CNN detailed in December, Rasmussen — which is known to skew to the right — was the least accurate pollster out of any that released generic congressional ballot polls in the runup to November’s midterm elections:

Rasmussen’s final poll was the least accurate of any of the 32 polls. They had the Republicans ahead nationally by one point. Democrats are currently winning the national House vote by 8.6 points. That’s an error of nearly 10 points.

Secondly, and relatedly, the Rasmussen poll Trump cited is an outlier when compared to others. For instance, RealClearPolitics’ aggregated polling of Trump’s approval rating, which includes Rasmussen, currently has it pegged at a much more problematic 44 percent, with 53 percent disapproving of his job performance.

Perhaps even more important than Trump’s consistently low approval rating is the fact that he’s underwater in battleground states key to his 2020 prospects. As my colleague Dylan Scott detailed last week, state polls from Morning Consult found Trump’s approval rating below his disapproval rating in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, and Indiana. Especially bleak is the fact that Trump’s approval rating is more than a dozen points underwater in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa — all states he won in 2016.

Of course, a lot can change between now and November of next year. And in fairness to Trump, it is true that state-level polls underestimated his support in 2016, even if national ones were more accurate about Hillary Clinton’s 2.1 percent margin of popular vote victory than Trump would have you believe. It’s undeniable, however, that the 2020 polling, taken in its totality, doesn’t look good for Trump right now.

But instead of engaging with that reality, Trump is reportedly putting his head in the sand and his faith in Rasmussen.


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