Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He threatened to sue CNN for a poll he didn't like, and may actually have meant it.

CNN released a nationwide presidential election poll on Monday showing Trump trailing Joe Biden by 14 points. While somewhat higher than other polls released in the past two weeks—Biden's average lead in such polls is 8.1%—it confirmed that Trump's support has plummeted.

Trump spent much of the day Monday complaining about it, and even paid his own pollster to "fix" the results by reweighting voters to count more Republican respondents. Today, he took it a step further, by having his campaign issue a cease and desist letter to CNN demanding an apology and retraction of the poll.

Representative of the "problems" that Trump's campaign cites with the CNN poll is that it was mostly conducted before last Friday, when less-terrible-than-expected economic news was released. Of course, polls aren't obliged to wait until there is good news for the incumbent, but an Economist/YouGov poll taken entirely after Friday also showed Biden with a commanding lead.

CNN responded with a flat refusal to retract the poll or apologize, noting that the only other time such demands had been made of it, they came from actual dictatorships like Venezuela.

There are two ways to interpret the letter.

The first is that it is an attempt by Trump's staff to soothe his temper. There is absolutely no chance that any legal action will be taken against CNN. But it's not clear that Trump, who is extremely emotionally sensitive to these things, understands this. (A former aide called Trump "malignantly crazy" where his supposed popularity was concerned.) He recently threatened to sue his own campaign manager for bringing him polls showing him losing, too, only to be pacified when Brad Parscale brought him "better" numbers.

This theory is supported by the fact that Trump's staff has a great deal of experience with manipulating him emotionally. Recently, for example, the campaign took the otherwise inexplicable step of buying ad space in the expensive Washington D.C. market. There is no chance whatsoever that he will win D.C., or even Virginia, but the ad buy appears to have been done in the hopes that Trump would be calmed by seeing the ads during his TV binges.

The other possibility is that Trump has already given up any hope of winning legitimately in November, and this is yet another attempt to plant the idea that any election he loses is rigged

Why should I care?

  • Americans either have the freedom to vote Donald Trump out of office, or they don't.
  • A president who can't control his emotions over polls is too unstable to do the actual work of the presidency.