A campaign sign for Donald Trump is seen before an event in Lawrenceville, N.J., May 19, 2016. 
Photo by John Taggart/Bloomberg/Getty

Discouraging internal polls become a huge headache for Team Trump

About a week ago, the New York Times reported that Donald Trump had received a briefing on his internal polls, the results of which were “devastating” for the president’s operation. Soon after, according to the article, the Republican directed his aides “to deny that his internal polling showed him trailing” former Vice President Joe Biden, despite the fact that the data showed exactly that.

Trump did not handle the Times’ reporting well. In fact, he soon after insisted that the internal polling data was “fake,” “made up,” and that the results in question “don’t even exist.”

Yeah, about that

Data from President Donald Trump’s first internal reelection campaign poll conducted in March, obtained exclusively by ABC News, showed him losing a matchup by wide margins to former Vice President Joe Biden in key battleground states.

Trump has repeatedly denied that such data exists.

The polling data, revealed for the first time by ABC News, showed a double-digit lead for Biden in Pennsylvania 55-39 and Wisconsin 51-41 and had Biden leading by seven points in Florida. In Texas, a Republican stronghold, the numbers showed the president only leading by two points.

NBC News obtained additional data from the internal polling report, which also painted a bleak picture for the GOP incumbent.

Brad Parscale, Trump’s campaign manager, conceded that the polling results – the ones his boss said were “fake,” “made up,” and non-existent – were real, but out of date.

Parscale added that his operation has seen “huge swings in the president’s favor” since that internal poll was conducted in March, which seems awfully hard to believe given the overall trajectory of Trump’s national standing.

But in case this weren’t a big enough fiasco, Team Trump has responded to these developments by shaking up his polling team.

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. […]

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.

According to the Washington Post, the Trump campaign is “severing its relationship with Brett Loyd, Mike Baselice and Adam Geller while keeping pollsters Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin.”

Whether the shake-up is a response to the leaks or the president’s dissatisfaction with the results is the subject of some debate.

Either way, this is a mess.

If Trump and his allies wanted to downplay the significance of internal, hypothetical, general-election polling conducted a year and a half before Election Day, fine. I think it matters, at least a little, insofar as it affects the Trump campaign’s short-term actions, and helps contextualize the president’s tantrums, but if Republicans argued that this doesn’t tell us much about what’s likely to happen in November 2020, I’d be inclined to agree.

Except, that’s not what transpired here. Instead, Trump lied about the data’s existence, encouraged others to mislead the public about the polling results, and responded to the public embarrassment by parting ways with some of his pollsters.

Election Day is 72 weeks from tomorrow. The president really ought to pace himself.