by Sebastian Smith
A rattled President Donald Trump will try reigniting his reelection campaign next week with a trip to Arizona and a high-profile TV appearance after polls showed him losing badly to Democrat Joe Biden.
Stuck for weeks in the White House under coronavirus lockdown, the Republican real estate and golf course magnate is openly frustrated at losing control over his once rollicking campaign.
“I’ve been at the White House now for many months,” Trump said on Wednesday, “and I’d like to get out.”
This will start Sunday with a “town hall” type interview on the friendly Fox News network staged, unusually, at the dramatic Lincoln Memorial on Washington’s National Mall — just outside the White House.
Then Tuesday he is expected to fly to Phoenix, Arizona, to tour a factory making medical equipment. Next up will be Ohio.
The change of scene will give Trump a chance to shift the narrative of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which is increasingly meeting public disapproval, just six months before election day.
In the wake of a disastrous press conference last week, when Trump riffed on the possibility of injecting coronavirus patients with disinfectant, the White House is pivoting to a sunnier new focus on reopening the economy.
“This is a great success story and I think that that’s really, you know, what needs to be told,” Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a key advisor, said Wednesday.
– Outburst at campaign staff? –
Opinion polls show Trump in trouble — not only failing to get a crisis-era patriotic bump, but floundering against the man he ridicules as “Sleepy Joe.”
The RealClearPolitics average of national polls has Biden at 48.3 percent and Trump at 42 percent. More importantly in an election decided on state-by-state electoral college votes, rather than the national popular vote, Biden is up in nearly every swing state.
“FAKE POLLING, just like 2016 (but worse)!” Trump tweeted Thursday during an intense early morning tweet storm against journalists, Democrats and those Trump believes have conspired to bring down his presidency through investigations into his links with Russia.
CNN and other US media reported that Trump recently yelled at his campaign manager Brad Parscale and other senior staff, including one expletive-laden outburst vowing he would not lose to Biden.
Trump, who has often described Parscale as a near genius for his work on the unconventional president’s campaign, denied blowing up at staff.
“Just told that Fake News @CNN is falsely reporting that I was recently shouting at my campaign manager over made up nonsense,” he tweeted. “Actually, he is doing a great job, I never shouted at him (been with me for years, including the 2016 win), & have no intention to do so.”
Trump’s new press secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied there was any discord in the team.
“I’m in the Oval with him all throughout the day and I can tell you that his commentary, his discussion is entirely centered around navigating through this pandemic and navigating towards reopening the economy,” she told reporters.
– Economic comeback? –
Despite running a uniquely divisive and controversy prone presidency, Trump had expected the surging US economy to be his golden ticket to retaining the White House in November.
Then came the novel coronavirus, which has already killed more than 60,000 Americans and triggered quarantines cratering everything from restaurants to airlines across the world’s biggest economy.
On FiveThirtyEight’s latest tracking, Trump has only 42.9 percent approval, down from 45.8 percent three weeks ago.
Biden is trying to make the election a referendum on Trump’s handling of the pandemic.
Trump, though, is gambling that an economic recovery will come just in time to allow him to declare victory and get voters to focus on the brighter future of a second term.
“I think you’re going to see economic numbers that are going to be fantastic. I believe it very strongly,” Trump said Thursday in the Oval Office.
He described the third quarter as a “transition” and “quarter four you’re going to have tremendous numbers.”
Next year, he said, will be “spectacular.”
© Agence France-Presse