The Note: Soft spots in GOP base highlight Trump credibility gap

Trump will come face-to-face with uncommitted voters at an ABC News town hall.

September 14, 2020, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

It didn't take Bob Woodward's book to dent President Donald Trump's credibility on the issue that's defining his presidency.

The latest revelations, though, aren't helping. They are also revealing rare cracks in the president's base of support, as a different kind of campaign week -- one where uncommitted voters will have unusual direct sway – begins.

The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll finds that 67% of Americans believe Trump responded too slowly to the coronavirus, and 68% say they trust what he says about the pandemic either not so much or not at all.

Perhaps more striking from the same poll, which was in the field shortly after Bob Woodward's interviews with the president were made public: 28% of Republicans believe the president responded too slowly and 26% distrust what he's saying about the crisis. Fully 50% of whites without college degrees say Trump's response has been lagging, and 51% say they don't trust the president's word.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion with supporters from the Latinos for Trump Coalition in Las Vegas, Sept. 13, 2020.
President Donald Trump participates in a roundtable discussion with supporters from the Latinos for Trump Coalition in Las Vegas, Sept. 13, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Republican unity returns when it comes to mistrusting former Vice President Joe Biden, and there are few signs of massive GOP defections to Biden over this or any other issue. But overall, 51% of Americans say they trust Biden either a great deal or a good amount on COVID-19.

Trump will come face-to-face with uncommitted voters at an ABC News "20/20" town hall in Philadelphia on Tuesday -- an event that will be held in accordance with state regulations around attendance limits and COVID-19 restrictions, unlike his campaign event in Nevada Sunday night.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

President Trump and the federal government have yet another unique challenge and potential opportunity before them.

Three West Coast states, home to more than fifty million Americans, are burning in a way the country has never seen before. Dozens of people have died and many more are missing, thousands of homes have been destroyed, air quality is dangerous for millions of Americans, and millions of acres have burned.

It's an unprecedented emergency that requires massive state and federal operational logistics and cooperation not only to get the fires under control but also to house and care for the tens of thousands of Americans who have evacuated or are now homeless.

PHOTO: The Bobcat Fire burns through the Angeles National Forest, Sept. 11, 2020, north of Monrovia, California.
The Bobcat Fire burns through the Angeles National Forest, Sept. 11, 2020, north of Monrovia, California.
David Mcnew/Getty Images

White House senior staff told ABC News Sunday that the White House was continuing to help "western neighbors" through a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration for California that began last month, as well as several grants and cost-sharing agreements, plus the allocation of helicopters and personnel to the region.

The president is slated to travel to Northern California Monday for additional briefings.

But Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, told ABC News Sunday that it was not enough, and accused the president of downplaying climate change "like he has downplayed COVID."

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris will also be out west this week in her home state of California, and Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the wildfires Monday. Biden has said climate change is a major crisis facing the country and the globe.

Beyond proving that this administration can in fact do more to help in a crisis, the president could take this moment to show that he cares and empathizes with people in blue states who may not have voted for him. But the harsh truth is that the president has repeatedly struggled to do this in the past.

The TIP with Benjamin Siegel

Mike Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and ex-Democratic presidential candidate, on Sunday announced plans to spend $100 million in Florida to help Joe Biden. The massive infusion of cash could help Democrats dominate the airwaves in a state Trump needs to win for reelection.

Bloomberg's pledge -- which will largely fund television and digital ads, and help reach Hispanic voters -- is nearly as much money as Republican and Democratic candidates for governor and Senate in recent years have spent on their entire campaigns.

"If past is prologue, it gets you a statewide win," Kevin Cate, a Florida Democratic strategist, said of the proposed spending.

PHOTO: Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, visits with Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, left, visits with Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden at the National September 11 Memorial in New York, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, before a ceremony marking the 19th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Patrick Semansky/AP

Bloomberg's aides say the money -- which will be spent by the billionaire's Independence USA PAC and several other groups -- will allow Democrats to shift resources to other battleground states, while forcing Republicans to respond in Florida.

And with Florida election officials allowed to begin processing the unprecedented level of absentee ballots before Election Day, Democrats hope that a victory in Florida would help Biden win the election decisively on Nov. 3, and avoid a contested result in a close race that could be disputed and litigated over weeks, if not months, after votes are cast.

ONE MORE THING

Most Americans are skeptical of President Trump's performance regarding the coronavirus pandemic -- disapproving of his response, disbelieving of his rhetoric on the virus and critical of what they view as his lagging approach to containing it -- a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Sunday finds. Trump's approval for his handling of COVID-19 lands at 35% with 65% disapproving, according to the survey, which was conducted by Ipsos in partnership with ABC News using Ipsos' Knowledge Panel. This marks the fourth straight poll with Trump's coronavirus response approval hovering in the low-to-mid 30s since early July.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Monday morning's episode features Stanford University professor Noah Diffenbaugh, who explains why we keep seeing such extreme wildfires in California and other western states. ABC News' Zohreen Shah joins us from Los Angeles to update us on the shooting of two Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies. And ABC News' Armando Garcia explains why Joe Biden is struggling to gain ground with Latino voters. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast. Election Day is just over 50 days away and elections officials across the country are preparing for an unprecedented election amid the coronavirus pandemic. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose discusses how he is addressing the challenges of the 2020 election. https://apple.co/23r5y7w

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal attorney, appears on ABC's "The View."
  • President Donald Trump travels from Las Vegas to Sacramento where he participates in a briefing on the wildfires at 2 p.m. ET, then makes remarks to the California National Guard at 3:05 p.m. ET, before traveling to Phoenix to participate in a Latinos for Trump roundtable at 6 p.m. ET.
  • Vice President Mike Pence travels to Wisconsin to host a campaign event at 11 a.m. CT in Janesville. He then travels to participate in a Montana GOP rally in Bozeman later in the afternoon.
  • Democratic nominee Joe Biden delivers climate change remarks in Wilmington, Delaware, at 1 p.m.
  • Former second lady Jill Biden participates in a roundtable with National Nurses United at 1 p.m., then joins a Virginia Women for Biden virtual rally at 2:30 p.m., followed by a virtual discussion with military and veteran Families in Georgia at 3:30 p.m. Later she joins a Women for Biden national event to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act at 7:30 p.m.
  • A Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing will provide a postal update at noon.
  • On Tuesday, ABC News hosts a town hall with President Donald Trump and undecided voters. ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos will anchor the one-hour, live event in Philadelphia at 9 p.m. on ABC and ABC News Live. ABC News Live will also have pre- and post-show coverage for more context and analysis.
  • Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.

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