President Trump’s image of political invincibility, critical to his influence with congressional Republicans and grassroots conservatives, is under assault amid a sweltering summer of gloomy public opinion polls.
Trump has trailed presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden for months — nationally and in an expanding array of battleground states. A sustained struggle like that would test any presidential contender and raise questions about his or her campaign. But for Trump, the spate of discouraging data presents deeper challenges. It makes the president look vulnerable, undermining his brand as a strong leader, which appeals to the GOP base and keeps congressional Republicans in line.
“The president measures himself by his numbers — stock market, TV ratings — and he is behind,” said veteran Republican strategist Ed Rollins, who runs Great America PAC, a pro-Trump super PAC. “There is a psychological effect. It does affect supporters. People want to be with a winner.”
A GOP operative who works with Republicans in Congress said Trump’s slippage is beginning to erode his standing on Capitol Hill. With as many seven GOP seats in play, it will only get worse if fear among Senate Republicans grows that the president might be a drag on keeping their 53-seat majority. “He’s got to show some strength or these senators will keep deserting him, making him a lame duck even before the election,” the operative said.