President Trump has been narrowing the gap in recent weeks with Democratic challenger Joe Biden both in national polling and in some key battlegrounds — a development his new campaign manager is crediting in part to his relaunched coronavirus briefings.
This is not to say the president is in comeback territory. His approval ratings remain deeply underwater, and he’s trailed Biden in virtually every national poll since the beginning of the year, even before the coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest and more presented an unprecedented test to his presidency.
The latest RealClearPolitics national polling average, though, shows Trump trailing Biden by just over six points, compared with nine points a month ago.
More significantly, the race is tightening in some key swing states.
In Florida, Biden is leading by four points, according to the RCP average, down from roughly eight points in late July.
And Trump is also seeing a tightening in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, trailing Biden by roughly five points in each — though the needle has not moved much in Michigan.
This comes as the Trump administration continues to face criticism for its pandemic response, amid rising COVID-19 cases and concerns about the impact of resulting lockdown measures on the economy.
His new campaign manager, Bill Stepien, however, cites as a positive factor the resumption of near-daily coronavirus briefings from the White House, which the president had been holding early on but suspended in late spring.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Stepien said that when the president speaks, “it’s a needle mover.”
“He also happens to be the leader of the free world, and anytime he steps behind a podium as he does every night unlike Joe Biden, it gets covered and it matters and it’s noteworthy and it’s a needle mover,” Stepien told Bloomberg.
“His instincts are strong and there’s no one better at the podium than him,” he continued. “That is a net positive every day of the week, polling shows it.”
Stepien also told Bloomberg that the “hidden Trump vote,” or what the president himself calls “the silent majority,” will help the president’s reelection.
“These are voters that always need to be looked after, cared for and paid attention to, because if you lose focus on them, if you take for granted key parts of the electorate like that, there’s a chance that they stay at home or vote a different way,” Stepien told Bloomberg.
Stepien joined the campaign last month, taking the reins from Brad Parscale.
Since Stepien took the helm, the president has seemed to adjust his tone on the outbreak, highlighting the importance of face masks as “patriotic,” urging all Americans to wear them and follow health and safety guidelines.
The campaign also briefly paused running television ads, allowing Stepien to take time to review its strategy.
On Monday, the campaign resumed airing national ads with what officials called a “smarter, more strategic” approach focused on early-voting states.
“The countdown clock may show 91 days left in the race, but in reality, the election starts a lot sooner than that,” Stepien told Fox News on Monday. “In many states, more than half of voters will cast their votes well before Election Day and we have adjusted our strategy to reflect that.”
In a piece of positive news, it was reported Friday that the U.S. economy added 1.8 million jobs in July even as many states had to pause or curtail reopening efforts.
The payroll increase reported Friday by the Labor Department was nonetheless well below the 4.8 million jobs created in June, the highest ever recorded. The unemployment rate fell to 10.2%, down from 11.1% in June.
The Trump campaign touted the gains and accused Biden of rooting for economic decline in a statement:
“The last three months have seen a total of 9.3 million jobs created and they represent the single greatest three-month period of job-creation in American history. … Everyone knows that Joe Biden was hunkered down in his basement hoping for a gloomy economic report to help him politically, which puts him in the pathetic position of being a candidate for President of the United States hoping for bad news for Americans.”
But Biden said in a statement that there’s more work to do, and he has a plan to rebuild:
“It did not have to be this bad. We are in a deeper economic hole than we should be because of Donald Trump’s historic failure to respond to the pandemic, and the pace of recovery has now slowed because of Trump’s continuing inability to come up with a plan to control the virus. … Trump’s surrender to the pandemic has led to a resurgence of the virus and more economic pain and anxiety for millions of Americans. After six months of a nation in crisis, he still has no plan to get us through.”
FOX Business Network’s Megan Henney contributed to this report.