Donald Trump knows he’s losing.
The president has privately come to that grim realization in recent days, multiple people close to him told Politico, amid a mountain of bad polling and warnings from some of his staunchest allies that he’s on course to be a one-term president.
Trump has endured what aides describe as the worst stretch of his presidency, marred by widespread criticism over his response to the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide racial unrest. His rally in Oklahoma last weekend, his first since March, turned out to be an embarrassment when he failed to fill the arena.
What should have been an easy interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Thursday horrified advisers when Trump offered a rambling, non-responsive answer to a simple question about his goals for a second term. In the same appearance, the normally self-assured president offered a tacit acknowledgment that he might lose when he said that Joe Biden is “gonna be your president because some people don’t love me, maybe.”
In the hours after the interview aired, questions swirled within his inner circle about whether his heart was truly in it when it comes to seeking reelection.
Trump has time to rebound, and the political environment could improve for him. But interviews with more than a half-dozen people close to the president depicted a reelection effort badly in need of direction — and an unfocused candidate who repeatedly undermines himself.
“Under the current trajectory, President Trump is on the precipice of one of the worst electoral defeats in modern presidential elections and the worst historically for an incumbent president,” said former Trump political adviser Sam Nunberg, who remains a supporter.
If Trump’s numbers erode to 35 percentage points over the next two weeks, Nunberg added, “He’s going to be facing realistically a 400-plus electoral vote loss and the president would need to strongly reconsider whether he wants to continue to run as the Republican presidential nominee.”