President Donald Trump finally seems to have noticed that he’s losing the election.
Trump has sought to project confidence about his odds of triumphing over Joe Biden, even as the pandemic has blazed across the country, the economy has tanked, and his poll numbers have sagged. In the midst of an ever-worsening national crisis that his administration has given up on even pretending to contain, Trump has taken solace in extreme selectivity: his high approval ratings within the shrinking Republican Party—96 percent, he noted in a recent tweet—and his approval ratings from Rasmussen Reports, a pollster that has generally shown higher favorability for the president than any other and whose work FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver has described as “mediocre.”
But at some point over the past couple of weeks, as the countdown to November 3 crossed the 100-day mark and Trump’s polling against Biden failed to substantially improve, the cold light of reality began to pierce the walls of the White House.
The president hasn’t admitted publicly that he’s losing, of course. That sort of honesty—acknowledging that he might be anything other than a winner or a “killer”—is too much of a humiliation for him. But his tweet suggesting that the election be postponed, along with a flood of other comments meant to undermine public faith in the electoral process, speaks to his anxiety about what might loom in his future. “2020 will be the most INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history,” he warned, pondering, “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???” As Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, and Reid J. Epstein of The New York Times wrote, Trump’s tweet was “one of the few clear signs that the president now realizes how deep a hole he has dug for himself in his re-election effort.”