Faced with a slew of national polls that show roughly half the country supports not only his impeachment but also his removal from office, President Donald Trump did what he always does: Just say stuff.
“Well, you’re reading the wrong polls. You’re reading the wrong polls,” Trump responded to questions from reporters about new numbers from CNN, Fox News and The Washington Post/ABC among others. “You’re read- — let me just tell you, I have the real polls. I have the real polls. The CNN polls are fake. The Fox polls have always been lousy. I tell them they ought to get themselves a new pollster.”
That response from the President begs the question: Where are these “real” polls? And what do they say? And why haven’t we seen them. (OK, so I guess it begged three questions.)
A bit of digging turns up some breadcrumbs on the what-the-heck-is-Trump-talking-about trail.
On Sunday, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel tweeted this:
“If the media’s pollsters had been right in 2016, Hillary would be president. They’re wrong on impeachment, too. Our data shows @realDonaldTrump has GAINED support in our target states since the beginning of October. Pelosi’s charade is backfiring!”.
And then there was this from McDaniel late last week:
“Our internal polling shows that despite the Democrats’ bogus attacks on @realDonaldTrump, his approval rating has increased! And in our 17 target states, voters oppose the Democrats’ efforts to remove President Trump by 14 points! Stop The Madness.”
Presumably, the “real” polls Trump is talking about are the same polls that McDaniel is referencing. And of course, the RNC — and the Trump campaign — are polling regularly to test not just the President’s standing with the public but also the efficacy of a wide variety of potential campaign messages.
Which is fine! And smart!
(Sidebar: If McDaniel — or any Republican — thinks there are 17 swing states in 2020 then they are, well, wrong.)
But if Trump is going to insist that he has “real” polls that show that suggest impeachment is less popular among fewer people than a series of national media polls, then there is some burden of proof on him to at least show some of those polls, right?
Think of it this way: If in junior high school, you told people that you had a girlfriend who lived in Montana, at some point, it would become clear that she likely didn’t exist. Because no one had seen her or knew her. The burden of proof would be on you at that point to prove that she a) did exist and b) was an internationally recognized supermodel.
That’s not to say Trump’s “real” polls don’t exist or even that they don’t show that the House impeachment investigation is potentially politically perilous for Democrats. (I happen to think it is!) It is to say that Trump can’t just keep citing secret polls that only he (and McDaniel, apparently) have seen that show him doing way better than all the public stuff that’s out there.
And honestly, wouldn’t Trump want to have some of that data out in the public? Right now, the dominant narrative is that he is on defense on Ukraine and that support for impeachment is rising. If the Trump campaign or the RNC has numbers that show that impeachment is hurting Trump a lot less in swing states than people think, it would seem to be in the campaign’s best interest to release at least some of those numbers, right?
Why haven’t they? I don’t know. I think it is possible Trump has simply made up the polling — or, more likely, greatly exaggerated how good it looks for him. Or the campaign is making some sort of strategic decision about what data it releases and when.
No matter the reason, the lack of actual data to back up the claims made by the President — combined with his long history of not telling the truth — make it very hard to take him at his word.