President Donald Trump's re-election campaign fired three of its five pollsters after leaked internal polling showed the president lagging behind Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden in several critical battleground states, multiple news outlets reported.
The move comes after the existence of a 17-state survey, which spelled bad news for Trump, was reported by multiple news outlets last week. The polling, conducted by the Trump campaign's lead pollster Tony Fabrizio between March 13 and March 28, found Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden by double-digits across swing states seen as crucial to his re-election victory and in Democratic-leaning states where Republicans have sought to gain momentum. It also showed Trump underperforming in reliably red states that have not been competitive for decades in presidential elections.
The campaign's decision to cut ties with its own pollsters — Michael Baselice, Adam Geller and Brett Lloyd — is meant to prevent further leaks of internal survey data, the New York Times reported Sunday. Fabrizio and another pollster, John McLaughlin, will remain with the campaign, according to the news outlet.
Trump has angrily denied coverage of the numbers in recent days, telling ABC News in an interview broadcast Thursday, "Those polls don't exist. I just had a meeting with somebody that's a pollster and I'm winning everywhere, so I just don't know what you're talking about."
He also tweeted that his numbers are "the best numbers WE have ever had," and claimed the numbers reported were from "Fake Polling."
But on Friday, ABC News reported specific information from that allegedly fake polling. The data obtained by the news outlet showed Trump trailing Biden by double-digits in Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin —states where the president edged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by narrow margins that powered his victory in 2016.
Trump's campaign staff did not dispute the authenticity of the polls, but Brad Parscale, the president's campaign manager, told ABC News that the surveys were outdated.
"These leaked numbers are ancient, in campaign terms, from months-old polling that began in March before two major events had occurred: the release of the summary of the Mueller report exonerating the president and the beginning of the Democrat candidates defining themselves with far-left policy messages," he argued.
Parscale also claimed the campaign has seen "huge swings in the president's favor across the 17 states we have polled based on the policies espoused by the Democrats," adding that a "plan to provide free healthcare to illegal immigrants results in an 18-point swing toward President Trump."
Attorney General William Barr's summary of former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, alleged ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow and whether the president obstructed justice was released on March 24. While the Trump campaign's poll was already being carried out ahead of the release of Barr's letter, it was underway for four additional days after the release of Barr's letter to the public.
Mueller said there was insufficient evidence to show a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia and declined to reach a conclusion on whether the president committed obstruction, despite detailing at least ten episodes of possible obstruction in his report. Mueller said last month he could not charge Trump with a crime due to a longstanding Department of Justice policy, which prevents a sitting executive from being indicted but emphasized that he did not exonerate the president.
NBC News on Sunday reported further data from the Trump campaign polls in March, revealing that the president also trailed Biden in Georgia by 6 points, Iowa by 7 points, Maine by 15 points, Minnesota by 14, North Carolina by 8 points, Ohio by 1 point and Virginia by 17 points.
The president led Biden by only two points in Texas, where a Democratic presidential nominee has not won since former President Jimmy Carter took the state in 1976.