Trump strategizes with campaign advisers on re-election amid growing challenges


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump met with his top campaign advisers on Thursday, officials said, amid polls showing his tumbling prospects for re-election as the U.S. economy suffers from a global pandemic and protesters gather in cities across the country.

Trump sat down at the White House with campaign chairman Brad Parscale, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, senior adviser Jared Kushner, Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, deputy campaign manager Bill Stepien and pollster Tony Fabrizio, among others.

The president had a second, larger meeting with a broader group of campaign and RNC officials where he discussed attack lines for use on his opponent in the Nov. 3 election, Democrat Joe Biden, a campaign official said.

“When Joe Biden is defined, the president runs very strong against him, especially in our target states. That’s something we’re going to work toward,” the official said.

Trump was described as upbeat and engaged at the meeting, but one source familiar with his thinking said he has been frustrated as he struggles to respond to a crushing set of problems, most recently mass protests resulting from the death last week in police custody of African American man George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Trump on Friday canceled a planned weekend visit to his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, an FAA advisory said, thus sparing him criticism about the optics of such a trip.

Trump has pushed a law-and-order theme in the wake of protests that grew violent last weekend. He has called Floyd’s death a “grave tragedy” and said he respected the rights of peaceful protesters. But he has faced criticism for not showing more empathy and a way forward for improving race relations.

In the meeting, Trump expressed a desire to engage more with the African American community, the campaign official said.

“The president was really engaged on that topic and wants to move the needle and talk to voters,” the official said.

The president has touted prison reform and funding for historically black colleges and universities as helpful for the community. The strong economy was a selling point as well until the coronavirus lockdown forced more than 40 million people from their jobs.

A raft of public polls showed Biden with a lead nationally and more importantly, ahead of Trump in some of the battleground states where the election will be decided.

Trump’s political advisers, however, see active Republican enthusiasm for his candidacy based on a spotless record of victories by the 64 party candidates he has endorsed in special elections since the 2018 midterms.

This 64-0 record, a White House official said, “shows just how united his base is and how strong it is.”

In an interview on Wednesday with Fox News Radio’s The Brian Kilmeade Show, Trump brushed aside the polls.

“I have other polls where I’m winning, and you’ve seen them too, I guess,” he said.

Reporting By Steve Holland; additional reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman