By most conventional indicators, Donald Trump is in danger of becoming a one-term president. The economy is a wreck, the coronavirus persists, and his poll numbers have deteriorated.
But throughout the Republican Party’s vast organization in the states, the operational approach to Trump’s re-election campaign is hardening around a fundamentally different view.
Interviews with more than 50 state, district and county Republican Party chairs depict a version of the electoral landscape that is no worse for Trump than six months ago — and possibly even slightly better. According to this view, the coronavirus is on its way out and the economy is coming back. Polls are unreliable, Joe Biden is too frail to last, and the media still doesn’t get it.
“The more bad things happen in the country, it just solidifies support for Trump,” said Phillip Stephens, GOP chairman in Robeson County, N.C., one of several rural counties in that swing state that shifted from supporting Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. “We’re calling him ‘Teflon Trump.’ Nothing’s going to stick, because if anything, it’s getting more exciting than it was in 2016.”
This year, Stephens said, “We’re thinking landslide.”
Five months before the election, many state and county Republican Party chairs predict a close election. Yet from the Eastern seaboard to the West Coast and the battlegrounds in between, there is an overriding belief that, just as Trump defied political gravity four years ago, there’s no reason he won’t do it again.
Andrew Hitt, the state party chairman in Wisconsin, said that during the height of public attention on the coronavirus, in late March and early April, internal polling suggested “some sagging off where we wanted to be.”
But now, he said, “Things are coming right back where we want them … That focus on the economy and on re-opening and bringing America back is resonating with people.”
In Ohio, Jane Timken, the state party chair, said she sees no evidence of support for Trump slipping. Jennifer Carnahan, the chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party, said the same. And Lawrence Tabas, the chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, went so far as to predict that Trump would not only carry his state, but beat Biden by more than 100,000 votes — more than twice the margin he mustered in 2016.