Following weeks of dismal polls, Fox News report wonders whether Trump will drop out

Trump campaign rejects Fox report as "granddaddy of fake news," pushes theory on Republican "undersampling"

Published June 30, 2020 6:00AM (EDT)

Donald Trump | Fox News logo (Getty Images/FOX NEWS/Salon)
Donald Trump | Fox News logo (Getty Images/FOX NEWS/Salon)

Trump administration media mouthpiece Fox News published an extraordinary report Monday blaring the headline, "Rough polling stretch has GOP operatives asking: Could Trump drop out?"

"A stretch of lackluster polling for President Trump has some Republican operatives nervous about the president's reelection prospects in November — with some even floating the possibility for the first time that Trump could drop out if his poll numbers don't rebound," says the report, published by the previously Trump-centric network that in recent months has increasingly drawn the president's wrath.

"It's too early, but if the polls continue to worsen, you can see a scenario where he drops out," one operative said.

"I've heard the talk but I doubt it's true," said another. "My bet is, he drops if he believes there's no way to win."

Later on Monday, Fox News host Trace Gallagher picked up the report.

"President Trump's poll numbers declining in recent weeks amid criticism of his administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, which is leading some speculation that if his support keeps falling, the president might drop out of the race," Gallagher said.

Gallagher then told former Republican Governor of New Hampshire John Sununu that the "vast majority of Americans" are not pleased with Trump's response to the pandemic.

"If the polling is off, it's way off," he added.

Though Sununu said there was "no chance" that Trump drops out, he acknowledged that the White House's coronavirus response could tank the GOP's chances "across the board" in November.

"The pandemic has been a problem," he said. "And I think the president and the administration and Republicans across the board running in November have to understand, they're going to be judged in November, not on how the pandemic was handled from January until now. They're going to be judged on how it's handled between now and the election."

Sununu said Trump needed to "gear his message for reality."

"Stop saying the virus is going to go away," he advised. "Let people know that this is a real second wave, let them know there may be a third wave."

Trump's poll numbers have drifted southward amid months of criticism over not just the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but recent blistering rebukes to his response to the nationwide protests in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Ahead of Trump's disastrous rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a national Fox News poll showed the president down by 12 points to presumptive Democratic opponent Joe Biden. Another Fox poll following that rally showed Trump trailing in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, states he cannot afford to lose. 

Biden has also consistently led Trump in polls of many key battleground states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, and the two are virtually tied in normally deep-red Texas.

In response to the Fox News report, the Trump campaign denied that the candidate would abandon the race, criticizing the right-leaning network's methodology for supposedly undersampling Republicans.

"This is the granddaddy of fake news," campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told the network in a statement.

"Everyone knows that media polling has always been wrong about President Trump — they undersample Republicans and don't screen for likely voters — in order to set false narratives. It won't work. There was similar fretting in 2016 and if it had been accurate, Hillary Clinton would be in the White House right now," he said.

The Trump campaign released a memo Sunday disputing the rumors, retreading those arguments and saying that the "mainstream news media" reports on polling were "financed by their own operations and others" in order to support a preconceived narrative.

"These are legitimate criticisms, as there are real differences between public polling and proprietary internal polling such as the campaign conducts for itself," the statement said.

But Trump's internal polling has allegedly also spelled trouble, not just for the president but for campaign manager Brad Parscale, whom Trump reportedly threatened to sue due to the bad numbers.

One year ago the campaign fired its pollsters after internal numbers showed him trailing Biden.

Trump has touted Fox's polling when its numbers are favorable, but blasts the network when he comes up short. Over the last few months he has appeared to sour on the network in general, demanding an "alternative" as Fox News reporting reflects an increasingly grim political reality.

"@FoxNews just doesn't get what's happening! They are being fed Democrat talking points, and they play them without hesitation or research," Trump tweeted in April. "They forgot that Fake News @CNN & MSDNC wouldn't let @FoxNews participate, even a little bit, in the poor ratings Democrat Debates."

"The people who are watching @FoxNews, in record numbers (thank you President Trump), are angry. They want an alternative now. So do I!", he wrote.

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

MORE FROM Roger Sollenberger

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Brad Parscale Brief Donald Trump Elections Fox News Joe Biden Polls Trump Campaign