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Trump’s Self-Inflicted Wound: Losing Swing Voters As He Plays to His Base


Even if he wanted to engage voters beyond his most loyal supporters, he may find he has little latitude to maneuver after defining himself so vividly in public life, particularly in these last months.

Mr. Trump and his advisers have disputed polls showing him struggling, and signaled that in the months ahead they would seek to strip away some of Mr. Biden’s support with attacks on, among other things, his age and mental acuity. That could also raise doubts about the former vice president among the remaining undecided voters.

And for all their concerns about Mr. Trump’s response to the pandemic and to the demonstrations, these swing voters approve his handling of the economy, suggesting an avenue to victory for Mr. Trump in the fall should economic conditions begin to rebound.

“If I had to vote based on the economy — right now — I’m sorry, but it would be Trump,” said Cheryl VanValkenburg, a factory worker who lives in Watertown, Wisc., a Republican suburb. She said she voted for Mr. Trump in 2016.

Christina Stoutenburg-Sanchez, 30, who lives in Smiths Creek, Mich., about an hour north of Detroit, said she was unhappy with both Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden. She said she was leaning toward voting for Mr. Biden. “But as much as I don’t like Trump, if he rallied and really pulled it together for our country, I could be persuaded,” she said.

Dan Hazelwood, a Republican strategist, said Mr. Trump had been hurt by his unsteady response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the nationwide demonstrations protesting police brutality and systemic racism. But he believes Mr. Trump could still assemble a bloc of voters who would support him over Mr. Biden.

“Right now, Trump’s coalition needs motivation,” he said. “The economy and the pandemic have sucked the enthusiasm away. At least 50 percent of America has deep and serious policy concerns with Biden and the Democrats. A ‘choice’ election between two policy directions is the motivation that Trump’s coalition needs, and it is why Biden is trying to be vanilla.”


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