Trump Lost to Himself
… His own pollster shows why he became a one-term President.
By The Editorial Board
Feb. 18, 2021 6:43 pm ET
Photo: saul loeb/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
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Donald Trump launched a personal attack on Mitch McConnell this week after the Senate GOP leader called the former President “practically and morally responsible” for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Mr. McConnell doesn’t need our defense, but we hope GOP voters aren’t buying Mr. Trump’s attempt to rewrite the history of the 2020 election.
Mr. Trump’s statement didn’t claim that he won the election, but it did begin to burnish the result by taking credit for every GOP victory while boasting that he “received the most votes of any sitting President in history, almost 75,000,000.” Joe Biden still beat him by more than seven million votes.
As important is why he lost, and for that look no further than Mr. Trump’s own pollster, Tony Fabrizio. His firm’s post-election analysis was first reported by Politico, but it’s worth resurfacing for Republicans to ponder.
Mr. Fabrizio looked at data from exit polls and AP’s VoteCast in 10 highly competitive states that Mr. Trump won in 2016. Mr. Trump lost five of them in 2020—Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin—while winning Iowa, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas a second time.
One stunning conclusion: Mr. Trump lost even though the electorate was more Republican in 2020 than in 2016. Mr. Fabrizio reports that Mr. Trump lost “largely due to a massive swing” among independents and erosion among Republicans. This helps explain how the GOP gained a dozen seats in the House even as Mr. Trump became the first President to lose re-election since George H.W. Bush.
Much of this erosion in support was based on dislike for Mr. Trump personally and the way he handled the Presidency. “While a majority of voters said they didn’t find either Presidential candidate honest or trustworthy, Biden held a double-digit advantage over POTUS,” especially in the five states that flipped to Mr. Biden in 2020, says the Fabrizio analysis.
Mr. Trump was favored 6 to 1 or more among voters on the economy. But the coronavirus was the top voter issue in both groups of states, and Mr. Biden carried those voters 3 to 1. Mr. Trump’s eroded credibility and inability to maintain a consistent Covid message may have been decisive.
More startling is that Mr. Trump “suffered his greatest erosion with white voters, particularly white men in both state groups,” according to the Fabrizio analysis. This offset his double digit gains with Hispanics while he performed about as well with blacks as he did in 2016. The former President also lost ground with nearly every age group in both sets of states, and he “suffered with white college educated voters across the board.”
We rehearse all this not to rub an open political wound. The point is to remember, as time passes and Mr. Trump blames everyone else for his defeat, that 2020 was a winnable race. Mr. Trump had many accomplishments to tout, and voters recognized them. But Mr. Biden’s consistent campaign message of a return to a calmer, more unifying politics resonated with millions of voters who had tired of the constant Trump turmoil.
Mr. Trump didn’t lose to Joe Biden. He lost to himself.