SEEMS LEGIT: Trump Pays Pollster for Poll Saying He’s Winning in 5 Battleground States

Donald Trump Joe Biden Split Getty Images

L: Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images R: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump paid for a poll that says he’s beating President Joe Biden in 5 battleground states, and earned himself a banner Politico headline in the process. Seems legit, huh?

One of the top stories at Politico and the lead for their Politico Playbook newsletter Tuesday morning is a lengthy story — by Playbook co-author Marc Caputo — that’s centered around a Trump-Super PAC-commissioned poll.

The article says they “obtained” a polling memo on the survey, and that the memo was not leaked to them by the pollster, so you do the math. The mystery around the memo’s origin further un-deepened this afternoon when Trump himself emailed the 2024 poll to everyone with the subject line “If the 2020 Election Was Held Today.”

The memo states that in 5 states that Biden flipped —  Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — Trump now leads by margins ranging from 3 points to 12 points.

Caputo and Playbook use the poll as a nucleus around which to wrap speculation about Trump’s plans for 2024.

“Because we’re POLITICO, Marc Caputo has a story up this morning on DONALD TRUMP’s potential 2024 map. Granted, it’s not terribly surprising, centering on the five states that JOE BIDEN flipped in 2020. But the level of engagement within Trumpworld this far out — that we didn’t necessarily expect,” the newsletter states.

Perhaps the “level of engagement” had something to do with the almost certain knowledge that some publication would be willing to credulously report on it.

In fact, Politico reports that the pollster, Tony Fabrizio, is no Trump shill, because Trump campaign advisers told them that.

“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,” Caputo wrote.

But a few things went unmentioned in the article, like Fabrizio, Lee & Associates’ “B/C” pollster rating from 538. Nowhere does Caputo take the half-a-sentence of space it would require to note that the polls used a “likely voter” model rather than a more inclusive “registered voter” or “all adults” sample.

And perhaps most importantly, Caputo makes no effort to contextualize this polling memo, which, to the extent it is possible to measure this in states that have mostly not been polled this early, Fabrizio’s results are clear outliers.

Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Michigan haven’t been polled since last year’s election, but the other two have.

In one poll released just this past week, a whopping 58 percent of Arizona voters said they don’t even want Trump to run in 2024. A June poll had Biden leading Trump by 7. Fabrizio has Trump up by 8 points.

A Marquette poll earlier this month had Biden beating Trump in Wisconsin by 4. Fabrizio has Trump up by 10.

None of which is to say that Fabrizio’s findings should be completely ignored. As even Steve Schale of pro-Biden SuperPAC Unite the Country admitted to Caputo, Biden’s poll numbers have been dropping for several months, and “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.”

But having a national publication uncritically publish your own internal poll is a powerful weapon in building a narrative for Trump. One Biden ally put a much finer point on it, telling Mediaite “It’s one thing for Trump’s grifters to keep bilking him for fake polls to soothe his wounded ego after losing last year. It’s something entirely else for Politico to give it prime billing to create the illusion of ‘news’. Kind of sad on both counts.”

Whatever you think of Fabrizio’s numbers, they also come in the face of polling that has consistently shown significant erosion of support for Trump among Republicans. Poll after poll after poll have shown that while Trump leads the hypothetical 2024 GOP field, he fails to crack 50 percent. And huge chunks of GOP voters consistently say they don’t want him to run.

As for Biden, he has seen his approval rating level off at about 43 percent, not exactly great but higher than former President Barack Obama’s pre-reelection low point. And Biden has just notched a pair of big legislative victories — the bipartisan infrastructure law he just signed and the Build Back Better bill that just passed the House — that haven’t had time to factor into his polling just yet.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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