Trump campaign cutting ties with pollsters after internal numbers leaked

The president's re-election campaign says series of polls showing Joe Biden ahead in key states are "ancient" news.
Image: President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of White House on June 11, 2019.
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of White House on June 11, 2019.Evan Vucci / AP

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By Chuck Todd, Kristen Welker and Ben Kamisar

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign is cutting ties with some of its own pollsters after leaked internal polling showed the president trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in critical 2020 battleground states, according to a person close to the campaign.

The move comes after NBC News obtained new details from a March internal poll that found Trump trailing Biden in 11 key states.

Portions of the campaign’s expansive March polling trickled out in recent days in other news reports.

But a person familiar with the inner workings of the Trump campaign shared more details of the data with NBC News, showing the president trailing across swing states seen as essential to his path to re-election and in Democratic-leaning states where Republicans have looked to gain traction. The polls also show Trump underperforming in reliably red states that haven’t been competitive for decades in presidential elections.

A separate person close to the Trump re-election team told NBC News Saturday that the campaign will be cutting ties with some of its pollsters in response to the information leaks, although the person did not elaborate as to which pollsters would be let go.

The internal polling paints a picture of an incumbent president with serious ground to gain across the country as his re-election campaign kicks into higher gear.

While the campaign tested other Democratic presidential candidates against Trump, Biden polled the best of the group, according the source.

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In Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan — states where Trump edged Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by narrow margins that proved decisive in his victory — Trump trails Biden by double-digits. In three of those states — Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida — Biden’s leads sit outside the poll’s margin of error.

Trump is also behind the former vice president in Iowa by 7 points, in North Carolina by 8 points, in Virginia by 17 points, in Ohio by 1 point, in Georgia by 6 points, in Minnesota by 14 points, and in Maine by 15 points.

In Texas, where a Democratic presidential nominee hasn’t won since President Jimmy Carter in 1976, Trump leads by just 2 points.

Portions of the internal Trump polling data were first reported by ABC News and The New York Times. The Times reported earlier this month that the internal polling found Trump trailing across a number of key states, while ABC News obtained data showing Trump trailing Biden in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida and holding a small lead in Texas.

The president denied the existence of any negative polling during comments last week in the Oval Office, saying his campaign has “great internal polling” and saying the numbers reported were from “fake polls.”

“We are winning in every single state that we've polled. We're winning in Texas very big. We're winning in Ohio very big. We're winning in Florida very big,” he said.

“Those are fake numbers. But do you know when you’re going to see that? You’re going to see that on Election Day.”

His campaign staff downplayed the results as old news in statements to NBC News. The polling was conducted between March 13 and March 28.

Tony Fabrizio, Trump’s campaign pollster, dismissed the data as “incomplete and misleading,” representing a “worst-case scenario in the most unfavorable turnout model possible.”

He added that a “more likely turnout model patterned after 2016” with a defined Democratic candidate shows a “competitive” race with Trump “leading.”

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale’s criticism focused on the poll’s age.

“These leaked numbers are ancient, in campaign terms, from months-old polling that began in March before two major events had occurred: the release of the summary of the Mueller report exonerating the President, and the beginning of the Democrat candidates defining themselves with their far-left policy message,” he said.

Parscale also claimed the campaign has seen “huge swings in the President’s favor across the 17 states we have polled, based on the policies espoused by the Democrats.” As an example, he said that a “plan to provide free health care to illegal immigrants results in an 18-point swing toward President Trump.”

The Trump campaign subsequently provided another quote from Parscale that echoed the president’s comments from last week.

“All news about the President’s polling is completely false. The President’s new polling is extraordinary and his numbers have never been better,” the statement said.

CORRECTION (June 16, 2019, 10:23 a.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the finding of polling data reported by ABC News. The data found that Trump was trailing Biden in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Florida; it did not find that Biden was trailing Trump.