(CNN)President Donald Trump has a simple strategy for the final weeks of the 2020 campaign: If some of me is good, more of me is better.
Fresh off battling Covid-19 — and a multi-day hospitalization — the President has set an extremely aggressive campaign schedule for himself in the closing days of the race.
“This week alone will bring the President to Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa and North Carolina — all states he won in 2016 — with stops next Friday and over the weekend still being finalized. While Trump occasionally overnights at his properties, his habit has been to fly out-and-back, returning to the White House often in the dark morning hours…
“…Trailing in polls and without much time to reverse his fortunes, Trump is pressing advisers to schedule more rallies and more travel in the lead-up to Election Day.”
While Trump seems to believe that the more voters see and hear from him the better chance he has of winning, there’s a large amount of polling data that suggests he is, well, wrong.
Let’s start here: Typically, a President’s job approval number lags behind his personal favorability ratings. That’s because even though people may not like a politician’s policies, they tend to think more warmly about them as a person, husband and a father, for example.
That’s not the case with Trump.
In the latest Gallup poll, 46% approve of the job Trump is doing in office. (A majority — 52% — disapprove.) In Gallup polling from September, by contrast, just 41% had a favorable opinion of Trump as a person. That’s consistent with other data out there. In an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this month, 45% approved of the job Trump was doing. But just 39% had a positive opinion of him personally.
Those numbers paint a very simple picture: People like Trump’s policies more than they like Trump. It might not be by a lot. But it’s there.
Take the economy. While just 39% of voters in the latest CNN-SSRS poll have a favorable opinion of Trump, 48% approved of how he has handled the economy. That’s a statistically significant difference! And makes clear that while people are split relatively evenly on Trump’s economic policies, they are much clearer in their personal dislike of him.
What all of those numbers suggest is that Trump’s best strategy — an admittedly long-shot one still, of course — is to do the opposite of what he is currently doing.
Rather than do a series of campaign appearances where he recites his greatest hits of distortions and wild claims — most notably about the coronavirus — he would be better served by limiting his exposure to voters. If he could do that — and, to be clear, Trump is totally incapable of doing so — then it’s at least possible that voters would look more at Trump’s record and less at, well, Trump.
Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley was onto something then when he tweeted this at the President earlier this week:
“.@realdonaldtrump I suggest u use pocket card at podium w 5 short sentences on what u’ve accomplished 5 things that differentiate u from Biden 5 things u will accomplish in next 4 yrs Focusing on these simple highlights will help ur msg &only take 5mins then say whatever u want.”
I’m not so sure about Grassley’s “then say whatever u want” advice, but the rest is pretty sound strategically speaking. To the extent Trump speaks publicly between now and November 3 — and it might be better for him, in all honesty, if he just didn’t speak publicly — it should be short, sweet and entirely focused on what he believes to be his biggest accomplishments of his first term. No personal asides. No exaggerations. No falsehoods.
Trump won’t do that. Heck, he may not even be capable of doing it. He has always made everything, including the presidency, about him and him alone. Unfortunately for Republicans, he appears to now be on a kamikaze mission to make the 2020 election all about him, too. And the consequences of that strategic choice will likely be something the party is dealing with for years to come.