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As President Trump prepares to officially kick off his re-election campaign in Orlando Tuesday night, his numbers are, as he is fond of saying, “not good, folks.”
In a new poll of ruby red Texas, less than 40 percent of voters say they would “definitely” re-elect Mr. Trump. Numbers released over the weekend by the president’s favorite media outlet, Fox News, show him trailing Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders and other Democrats. His internal numbers may be even worse, putting him behind Mr. Biden by double digits in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
In response, Mr. Trump fired some of his pollsters.
“We are winning in every single state that we polled,” he told reporters in the Oval Office. “They were fake polls that were either put out by the corrupt media.”
It’s reasonable that a politician whose seminal political experience was defying the polls might not fully trust their results.
But regardless of what Mr. Trump believes, it’s clear his team is preparing for a very different contest from the one he seems to see.
While the president’s efforts may look and sound the same as last time — massive prime-time rallies, nicknaming his opponents, controlling the conversation by tweet — a peek behind the curtain reveals a far more conventional kind of campaign.
Unlike his shoestring 2016 operation, a staff of several dozen has been installed in a fully outfitted office space in Northern Virginia, with a view of the Potomac and walls studded with flat-screen televisions playing cable news. And after a campaign where Mr. Trump found himself frequently at odds with the national Republican Party, he’s turned the party committee into a subsidiary of his campaign, sharing office space, staff and fund-raising operations. Already, they’re pouring millions into Facebook ads, outspending every Democrat in the field.
Those efforts have helped Mr. Trump’s team more than triple the list of 10 million voter contacts his operation had at the end of the 2016 election. By Election Day, they expect to have at least 50 million, a number awfully close to the 62 million that voted for Mr. Trump in 2016. Those phone numbers and email addresses allow the campaign to reach their supporters immediately.
“I can just call them or email them,” Brad Parscale, the campaign’s manager, told CBS News. “We’re spending millions of dollars a month, light years ahead of any campaign in history, to build the foundation of who we need to market to, what we need to understand, what we need to say to them.”
All of this early growth is possible because his operation is exceedingly well-funded, a consequence of Mr. Trump taking the unprecedented step of filing his re-election campaign the day of his inauguration. His campaign had $40 million in the bank as of the last fund-raising report, with a goal of raising $1 billion for the 2020 race. (By comparison, President Barack Obama held less than $2 million in the bank at this point in his re-election cycle.)
Mr. Trump has even embraced a tiered bundler program — the very kind he derided during his previous run.
“I don’t need anybody’s money,” Mr. Trump said after announcing his candidacy in June 2015. “I’m using my own money. I’m not using the lobbyists. I’m not using donors. I don’t care. I’m really rich.”
Of course, money isn’t everything: Hillary Clinton far outraised Mr. Trump in the 2016 race. But, nearly 17 months before Election Day, it certainly gives Mr. Trump a comfortable head start on what’s likely to be — though he may not want to admit it — a brutal re-election battle.
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A new hub for 2020 updates
Have you found yourself chatting with a friend about, say, Senator Kamala Harris, and wished you could quickly see how her poll numbers have changed recently? Maybe you’ve wondered who the most popular candidate in Iowa is right now?
The Times has created a new page that captures a snapshot of the 2020 Democratic primary as it currently stands, with the latest poll numbers, fund-raising stats and even rankings for who’s getting the most media coverage.
We think politics junkies will find it really useful (we find it useful in putting together this newsletter, and we do this stuff for a living).
The page will update every week with new numbers, plus a fresh analysis from our colleague Alex Burns, who will break down what the latest results mean for the race.
And there’s one more feature that we find particularly cool — a tracker that tells you who was leading the primaries on this date in elections past. It never hurts to remember that on June 17, 2015, Jeb Bush seemed like a lock.