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Trump could still bounce back, but it looks less likely than ever

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump sits before holding a roundtable discussion with several Administration officials and Hispanic American business, community, and education leaders in the cabinet room at the White House on July 9, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

WASHINGTON — If you’re a Republican, there are two possibilities for what happens between now and November, given the rough poll numbers and gloomy overall political environment.

One, President Trump will inevitably claw his way back into contention, rallying Republicans who don’t want to lose power and softening Joe Biden’s support — a la what happened in the weeks after that disastrous “Access Hollywood” video in 2016.

Or two, the numbers will either stay the same or even get worse for the GOP — since Trump is now the incumbent, not the challenger, amid a pandemic that has now killed almost 135,000 Americans and brought the U.S. unemployment rate into the double digits.

It’s that second scenario that should scare the heck out of GOP strategists: What if a majority of the electorate already has given up on Trump, like what happened to George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina and Iraq, or Jimmy Carter after the Iran-hostage crisis?

“As one strategist who has been doing extensive focus group work with suburban voters tells us, ‘they are mostly done with Trump,’” the Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter wrote earlier this week.

Even the GOP messaging isn’t breaking through. A Monmouth poll out this week found that 77 percent of American adults believe the phrase “defund the police” means to change the way police departments operate — not eliminate them entirely, as Team Trump has been messaging.

And here are the latest poll numbers out this morning: 67 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and race relations, per an ABC/Ipsos survey.

If the 2020 presidential contest doesn’t end up changing, we may look back at the last two months — Trump suggesting ingesting bleach; the president holding the Bible at St. John’s church; the Tulsa rally; and the spike in cases in Arizona, Florida and Texas — as being the beginning of the end of this race.

Et tu, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh?

Indeed, one way to view yesterday’s Supreme Court rulings on Trump’s taxes is that the justices — including those Trump appointed to the bench — aren’t acting like Trump will win in November.

“The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday gave President Donald Trump a chance to beat back House Democrats' efforts to obtain his financial records but ruled he is not immune from the Manhattan district attorney's attempt to get his taxes,” NBC’s Pete Williams writes.

And you had two Trump appointees — Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — dismissing Trump’s claim to absolute immunity from having to release his income taxes, says the New York Times’ Peter Baker.

“My guess is their feeling about him is, ‘We intend to be on this court long after he is a bad memory, and if his administration is about to come crashing down, we might as well have been people who weren’t willing to completely blow up the Constitution for him,’” Richard Primus, a constitutional scholar at the University of Michigan Law School, tells Baker.

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

3,133,312: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 59,313 more cases than yesterday morning.)

134,164: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 882 more than yesterday morning.)

38.03 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

More than 1,000: The number of TSA agents who have tested positive for coronavirus.

39 percent: The percent of coronavirus testing the United States is doing compared to the level experts say is needed to mitigate spread of the virus.

67 percent: The share of Americans who disapprove of the president’s handling of COVID-19, per a new ABC News/Ipsos poll.

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Biden lays out his economic agenda

Speaking in Dunmore, Pa., on Thursday, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden unveiled his “Build Back Better” economic agenda, per NBC’s Marianna Sotomayor.

“Let's use this opportunity to take bold investments in American industry and innovation so the future is made in America, all in America,” Biden said.

He added, “When we spend taxpayers’ money, when the federal government spends taxpayers' money, we should use it to buy American products and support American jobs.”

And: “Let's get prepared to meet the challenges of the climate crisis. That means investing in infrastructure, clean energy, creating millions of good paying union jobs in the process.”

McConnell calls GOP convention a “challenging situation”

Republican senators are starting waiver on if they’ll attend the Republican convention next month – and that list now might include Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Well, I think the convention, it's a challenging situation, and a number of my colleagues have announced that they are not going to attend, and we’ll have to wait and see how things look in late August to determine whether or not you can safely convene that many people,” McConnell said.

That’s a departure from earlier this week when McConnell’s office told NBC’s Hill team that, “the leader has every intention of attending.”

While Republicans are still planning an in-person convention in Jacksonville, Fla., the president hinted earlier this week that he might be flexible: “It really depends on the timing," he said. "Look, we’re very flexible, we can do a lot of things, but we’re very flexible."

The Lid: Money, honey

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we checked in with some of the latest eye-popping Democratic Senate fundraising totals.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Some Republicans view generous unemployment benefits as a “disincentive to work.” But is the economy strong enough to end them?

The Trump campaign is trying to find a new strategy for rallies after the Tulsa debacle.

Steve Bannon says Joe Biden is getting it right with his “Buy American” plan.

The president isn’t happy about his defeat in the Supreme Court yesterday on his financial records case.

The Washington Post reports that the president privately complains about how the coronavirus is affecting his presidency, casting himself as the virus’s chief victim.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff called the Confederacy “treasonous” in a Capitol Hill hearing yesterday.

Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a fellow veteran, is the latest conservative to question Sen. Tammy Duckworth’s values.

The New York Times writes that suburban voters aren’t buying into Trump’s brand of white grievance.