Trump and his allies have publicly signaled confidence about the contest, dismissed public polling and worked on persuading Republican donors and voters that they have nothing to worry about.
But, in private conversations, “some of Mr. Trump’s aides are quietly conceding just how dire his political predicament appears to be, and his inner circle has returned to a state of recriminations and backbiting.”
“Some midlevel aides on the campaign have even begun inquiring about employment on Capitol Hill after the election, apparently under the assumption that there will not be a second Trump administration for them to serve in.”
Trump’s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, has told Republican leaders that the president still has a path to victory, but even he has reportedly admitted that it is very “narrow.”
With a little over two weeks until the election, aides and advisers have reportedly realized that it is too late for a major change in strategy, so they are hoping to keep Trump “off Twitter” and avoid controversy.
The president has made their jobs harder, it seems.
He has not stuck to a coherent policy message, choosing instead to rely on old talking points and slamming his political opponents.
He has also taken aim at the FBI and his own attorney general, instead of focusing on issues voters care about the most, such as the economy and the coronavirus pandemic.
According to David Kochel, a GOP strategist based in Iowa, consultants are “frustrated” with Trump and believe he should run on rebuilding the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kochel added that the attacks on Biden’s son, Hunter, only serve to galvanize the conservative base, which is already on board with Trump.
In agreement, strategist Ken Spain said that Trump was “not delivering a consistent message at the most critical juncture of the campaign.”
Some close to Trump reportedly see the final presidential debate as his last shot at changing the trajectory of the race. The president missed the opportunity to do so earlier because he decided against debating Biden virtually.
As strategist Rob Stutzman put it, “the reality is they are probably out of time.”
Biden has mostly stayed on message, which appears to be paying off. The latest CNN poll put him 16 percentage points ahead nationwide, recording an improvement in favorability ratings.