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President Trump is confronting the most dire political environment of his presidency, with his support dropping fast from Texas to Wisconsin, even among his base of religious and older voters.
Why it matters: Top Republicans tell Axios that Trump's handling of the nation's civil unrest, including his hasty photo op at St. John's Church after the violent clearing of Lafayette Park, make them much more worried about his chance of re-election than they were one week ago.
Yesterday, advisers admit, was inarguably brutal:
- His current defense secretary, Mark Esper, caught the White House off-guard by breaking with Trump at a press briefing where he said he doesn't currently support invoking the Insurrection Act, the 1807 law that permits the president to use active-duty troops on U.S. soil. Trump was especially infuriated that Esper read his remarks, proving he didn't misspeak. Trump thought Esper was trying to curry favor with the media.
- His former defense secretary, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, torched him as a bad, divisive leader tearing America apart. "I have watched this week’s unfolding events, angry and appalled," Mattis wrote in a statement to The Atlantic. "We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution."
At the same time, Trump's polling has turned from mixed to bleak:
- In Texas, a Republican stronghold that Trump won by nine points in 2016, a Quinnipiac Poll out yesterday showed Trump in a statistical tie with Joe Biden, 44% to 43%.
- Fox News polls out yesterday showed Trump down badly in Wisconsin (Biden 49%, Trump 40%) and statistically tied in Ohio (Biden 45%, Trump 43%) — two must-wins.
- In Arizona, a 2020 swing state which Trump won by three points in 2016, a Fox News poll showed Biden with an edge (46% to 42%).
Between the lines: Trump is furious at Esper.
- But the president's most trusted advisers are telling him it would be foolish to fire him.
- They don’t think he will, even though the president has vented and asked for "names" to replace him.
The bottom line: Trumpworld people aren't panicked, but they definitely are concerned — and hope that a "Nixon '68" dynamic will kick in, and a public desire for law and order will ultimately reward Trump.
- But right now, sources close to the campaign say he’s suffering with independents.