LAS VEGAS (AP) — President Donald Trump sought Monday to buck up his campaign staffers two weeks from Election Day, dismissing the cautionary coronavirus advice of his scientific experts as well as polling showing him trailing Democratic rival Joe Biden across key battleground states.
Trump was facing intense pressure to turn around his campaign, hoping for the type of last-minute surge that revived his candidacy four years ago and plunging into an aggressive travel schedule despite the pandemic.
But his lack of a consistent message, the surging virus cases and his attacks on experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci could undermine final efforts to appeal to voters outside of his most loyal base.
Speaking to campaign aides on a conference call, Trump said he believes he’s going to win, allowing that he didn’t have that same sense of confidence two weeks ago when he was hospitalized with COVID-19.
One week since returning to the campaign trail, where his handling of the pandemic is a central issue to voters, Trump blasted his government’s own scientists for their criticism of his performance.
“People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots,” Trump said of Fauci, declaring the government’s top infectious disease expert “a disaster.”
But Fauci is both respected and popular, and Trump suggested firing the doctor would only create greater controversy.
Trump’s rejection of scientific advice on the pandemic has already drawn bipartisan condemnation.
Fauci, in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” that aired Sunday, said he was not surprised that Trump contracted the virus after he held large events with few face coverings. Fauci also objected to the president’s campaign using his words in a campaign ad.
“I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded, no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” Fauci said of the president.
Trump held his call with campaign staffers from Las Vegas, where he was on the third day of a western campaign swing. He was to hold Arizona rallies in Prescott and Tucson later in the day before returning to the White House.