“Polling information is very concerning, just as it was in 2016” when Trump ultimately won Michigan, said Jase Bolger, a former state House speaker. But, he added, “2020 is anything but normal. So, yeah, I don’t like what I see in polling now. But, polling now won’t decide the election in the fall.”
Recent surveys have also shown Trump behind in Pennsylvania, where Republicans suffered across-the-board losses in 2018. State House Speaker Mike Turzai, however, argued the president’s populist approach would play well in industrial and manufacturing-heavy parts of the state and that voters would respond well to a message of economic recovery.
He thinks Trump can reverse the suburban losses Republicans suffered in the 2018 midterms, but urged the president to stick to an uplifting pitch.
“The president has to stay positive” in his economic message, Turzai said. “I think if he does that he can be quite successful, and I think he’ll win Pennsylvania.”
Others see reason for worry. Former Pennsylvania Rep. Phil English said the state’s Democratic governor would face backlash for his management of the coronavirus but that voters would likely focus any frustrations toward national Republicans in power.
“I think there is too much blame-mongering going on, but that is predictable and I think that is going to complicate the political landscape for Republicans in Pennsylvania because they’re the party with the White House, so all negatives are going to first be set at their direction,” said English.
Trump was the first GOP candidate to win Wisconsin since 1984. He prevailed by less than 1 percentage point, making it perhaps the most competitive of the Rust Belt states. The president has taken a keen interest in Wisconsin and campaigned aggressively for the GOP candidate in last week’s special election for a Republican-leaning congressional seat.
Tommy Thompson, who was Wisconsin’s longest-serving governor, said Trump would need to visit the state frequently. He urged Trump to focus on winning over female voters whom he’s long struggled with, and to winning back the slice of senior voters who’ve soured on him during the pandemic.
“Trump has got to come into Wisconsin and spend some quality time here, and more than once,” said Thompson.
Trump campaign officials say their battleground polling has seen an uptick since the president scaled back his rambling daily briefings. They point to a recent CNN survey of 15 key states showing the president with an advantage. Trump was briefed last week on what advisers described as improving numbers.
The reelection campaign is engaging in a massive effort to take down Biden. It recently launched a TV and digital offensive centered largely around the former vice president’s dealings with China, where the virus originated. Trump’s political operation has also been making calls to battleground voters making the case that Biden is soft on the authoritarian country.
Trump is also stepping up his public appearances, with trips to Arizona and Pennsylvania the past few weeks.
“In our own data, President Trump is in solid shape in all our key states. We have only just begun to define Joe Biden using his own record, particularly on his softness on China, and it’s working,” said Trump 2020 spokesman Tim Murtaugh. “There is tremendous enthusiasm behind the president and he has built an unstoppable juggernaut of a campaign.”