Kellyanne Conway acknowledges, spins Trump's drop in polls

To hear Conway tell it, Trump's polls "were much higher" when he did daily coronavirus briefings. I'm not sure she's fully thought this one through.
Image: Kellyanne Conway
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway talks with reporters outside the White House on Aug. 28, 2019.Evan Vucci / AP
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By Steve Benen

The official line from the White House is that Donald Trump's public standing is fine, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany touted his public support during yesterday's briefing, and the president himself tweeted a day earlier that his campaign's "poll numbers are rising fast."

Today, however, Kellyanne Conway took the extraordinary step of acknowledging Trump's slumping polls -- though the former Republican pollster was eager to put a spin on the numbers.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Friday advocated for President Trump to resume giving regular coronavirus briefings as approval of his handling of the pandemic sinks in public polls.

Asked on Fox News why most Americans oppose Trump's handling of the coronavirus crisis, Conway replied, “The president’s numbers were much higher when he was out there briefing everybody on a day-by-day basis about the coronavirus, just giving people the information.”

As a literal matter, the White House counselor's observation is rooted in some quantitative truth: Trump's approval rating was about five points higher in April than it is now. For Conway, there's an explanation for this: when Trump stood at the briefing-room podium every day, ostensibly to offer updates on the pandemic, it bolstered his numbers. When the briefings ended, his support slipped.

That's certainly one way to look at recent developments.

But I'd recommend a better way. In case anyone's forgotten, the president's daily coronavirus briefings were an unmitigated disaster. Trump was seen repeatedly lying, struggling with basic questions, contradicting members of his own team, and at one point, suggesting disinfectant injections might be an effective treatment.

By early April, even many Republicans were begging the White House to end these cringe-worthy daily events. Trump was eventually convinced that he was doing far more harm than good to his own standing, so he curtailed the briefings.

To hear Conway tell it, this explains the president's sliding support. I'm going to go out on a limb and say the better explanation for Trump's woeful public standing is that he's failing spectacularly to respond to a deadly public-health crisis.