Republicans in battleground states are warning Trump that he's headed for real trouble in November, and that he may very well end up taking the GOP with him into a 2008-style wipeout.
Donald Trump has made clear he will attack Joe Biden unmercifully in order to ensure the election is a choice between him and Joe Biden — rather than an up-or-down vote on the president’s handling of the coronavirus.
Scott Walker has a different view, at least when it comes to Trump's chances in the all-important battleground of Wisconsin.
“I think it still boils down to a referendum on the president. They’ll beat up on Biden and they’ll raise some concerns,” said the former two-term Republican governor of Wisconsin, who lost his seat in 2018. But in the end, if people felt good about their health and the state of the economy, Trump will probably carry Wisconsin. If not, Walker said, “it’s much more difficult” for the president.
Walker is not alone among swing-state Republicans in his assessment of the president’s political prospects. Interviews with nearly a dozen former governors, members of Congress, and other current and former party leaders revealed widespread apprehension about Trump’s standing six months out from the election.
Many fret that Trump’s hopes are now hitched to the pandemic; others point to demographic changes in once-reliably red states and to the challenge of running against a hard-to-define Democratic opponent who appeals to a wide swath of voters. The concerns give voice to an assortment of recent battleground state polling showing Trump struggling against Biden.
There are certain to be plenty of momentum shifts before the election, especially in such a volatile political environment. Trump enjoys a vast resource advantage and his campaign has only begun going after Biden with sustained advertising — an effort that isn't yet fully reflected in public polls, his advisers said. This past week, the campaign circulated a memo to supporters saying that Trump had closed a once-substantial national gap.
And throughout 2016, many Republicans thought he wouldn't win.
But that hasn’t quelled GOP fears, even in some traditionally friendly states.
Georgia hasn’t gone for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1992. But last week, Republicans released two internal surveys showing a neck-and-neck race, one of which had Biden narrowly ahead.
“Georgia is absolutely at risk for Republicans in 2020 — up and down the ballot, everything is in play. The data from previous elections shows this. It didn’t happen overnight — Democrats have been making gains for years in Georgia,” said Republican State Leadership Committee President Austin Chambers, who has deep experience in Georgia politics and recently released a memo warning the party to take the state seriously.
Chambers said he's confident Trump will ultimately prevail. But concern within the state GOP has been growing, particularly because of the the state's changing demographics and fast-growing Atlanta suburbs, which turned sharply against Republicans in 2018. Former GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss noted that white suburban women have long been a “major key to Republican victories” in Georgia but broke from the party in 2018.
“Trump will need a significant turnout from them and he needs their vote,” Chambliss said.
It's a similar story in Arizona. Public polling over the course of the spring has consistently shown Biden ahead, and a recent private GOP survey had the former vice president with a small lead. Though Democrats haven’t won Arizona in a presidential election since Bill Clinton in 1996, the party flipped four statewide offices in 2018.
“It’s already baked-in that it will be a close election in Arizona from top to bottom,” said Kirk Adams, a former state House speaker and ex-chief of staff to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey. If anyone is just now starting to feel "concern because of the president’s current standing, it means they haven’t been paying attention.”
If these Republicans are warning Trump could lose, it's because he continues to be losing in GOP polling and has been for months now. It's only going to get worse for Trump.
Unfortunately, it's going to get worse for us, too.