As Donald Trump builds out a presidential-campaign-in-waiting, his team is focusing on an electoral strategy that relies on recapturing the five states that flipped to Joe Biden in 2020.
The five states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — delivered a total of 73 electoral votes in 2020, enough to produce a decisive Electoral College victory for Biden. Since then, Trump has held four rallies, endorsed dozens of candidates and played a key role in shaping contests that could put his allies in top offices in those states in 2024.
Trump’s shadow campaign also recently polled Trump-Biden matchups in the five states, all of which were decided in 2020 by fewer than 3 percentage points. According to the poll, a memo of which was obtained by POLITICO, the former president led Biden in Arizona by 8 percentage points, Georgia by 3 points, Michigan by 12 points, Pennsylvania by 6 points and Wisconsin by 10 points.
The poll numbers send a message to those who think Trump’s grip on the Republican Party is loosening, said Tony Fabrizio, a top GOP pollster who conducted the surveys for Trump’s super PAC, “Make America Great Again, Again!”
“Poll after poll clearly demonstrates that former President Donald Trump is still the 800-pound gorilla in the GOP and would be its 2024 nominee should he run,” said Fabrizio, who confirmed the numbers for POLITICO but did not provide them. “This new data clearly shows that today the voters in these five key states would be happy to return Trump to the White House and send Biden packing.”
In another sign that Trump is gearing up for a White House bid, his super PAC is holding its biggest planned fundraiser to date on Dec. 2, when the nation’s top Republican donors are expected to gather at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Fla.
The super PAC is also expanding its board of directors to include Trump’s former acting national intelligence director Ric Grenell and his former acting attorney general, Matt Whitaker. They will serve alongside former Florida state Attorney General Pam Bondi, who defended Trump in his first impeachment trial.
The former president’s other political action committee, Save America, recently hired longtime Trump aide Lynne Patton to help him build political coalitions. Patton has doubled as a spokesperson for Trump in recent appearances on Fox News and Newsmax.
For months, Trump has been building a turnkey operation in case he decides to announce a presidential bid. Advisers expect him to do so after the midterms if Republicans capture at least one chamber of Congress. The poll from Fabrizio will only be more encouragement for Trump, according to those who know the former president’s thinking.
A spokesperson for Trump’s political committees said the president is focused on the midterm elections.
Biden has also publicly said he plans to run for reelection. The super PAC supporting him, Unite The Country, is similarly gearing up in the five states the Trump campaign has focused on, first with an eye on the midterms and then the presidential race in 2024.
Steve Schale, CEO for Unite The Country, said he had no reason to doubt Fabrizio’s polling for Trump as Biden’s poll numbers have dropped for months. But Schale noted that midterm polling a year out is hardly predictive of what happens in a presidential election in three years.
“There are historical headwinds we’re facing, that any president faces during a midterm: five of the last seven midterm elections have been wave cycles for the other party,” Schale said.
He recalled that then-President Barack Obama won reelection after Democrats were crushed in his first midterm election in 2010, and predicted that, if Republicans recapture Congress, they will veer too far right and damage Trump’s chances in 2024.
Still, after Democrats were humbled in Virginia’s statewide races earlier this month, Schale issued a memo to donors saying it was a “wake-up call” for the party and pledged a “seven-figure” ad campaign to tout Biden’s accomplishments in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
The polling from Fabrizio suggests that Biden could use the help. On 10 different issues ranging from immigration to gun control to the economy, Trump bests Biden in the swing states, often by double digits, according to the poll.
The survey, which was conducted Nov. 11-16, also reports that Trump is more trusted than the president to handle rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure — despite the fact that Trump failed to deliver on an infrastructure bill and Biden succeeded. According to the poll, voters are split on the infrastructure legislation, but they have a more negative view of the broader spending plan called the “Build Back Better Act.” Democratic polling, however, finds that a majority of voters supports that legislation when its individual components are explained.
Fabrizio’s polls haven’t always been favorable for Trump. During the 2020 campaign, according to campaign advisers, Fabrizio’s surveys were so consistently bleak for the incumbent that Trump disliked speaking with him and sought out other pollsters who would give him more favorable numbers.
Of the five states surveyed, the poll shows that Georgia is consistently the tightest state between Trump and Biden, while Michigan and Wisconsin appear to be leaning the most heavily toward Trump or away from Biden.
Since the 2020 election, Trump has vigorously pressed his baseless claims of a stolen election in all five states — more so than anywhere else.
Trump in recent months has zeroed in on Michigan, endorsing 11 candidates there in state and federal races. Only in much-bigger Texas, where Trump has endorsed 13 Republicans, has Trump done more to put his thumb on the scales.
“Our official posture is that this is all about the midterms, and in some ways it is,” said one Trump adviser who spoke anonymously and was not authorized to comment on his behalf. “But this is all about Trump and the movement and what happens in 2024. Trump wants a rematch so badly with Biden he can taste it.”