For a few weeks, Donald Trump’s advisers had seemingly gotten through to him — the president was finally encouraging his supporters to vote by mail, at least some of the time.
On-message Trump didn’t last long. He recently appeared to suggest people vote twice — voting in-person as a way to determine if their mail-in ballot had been counted — later warning Democrats would be “thieving and stealing and robbing” their way to an election win. Now, five Republicans close to the president’s campaign say that if Trump keeps up his vacillating mail-in voting rhetoric, they fear infrequent voters, especially older ones, will simply sit out the election.
In an election where a record number of Americans are expected to cast ballots by mail, that could cost Trump a victory.
“He should be encouraging people to do it, if that makes them feel more comfortable,” said Karl Rove, a veteran Republican strategist who has been informally advising Trump’s campaign.
Unlike the president, Trump’s own campaign has spent weeks urging supporters in 17 targeted states to mail in their ballots, making pleas through a dedicated website, Facebook ads and robocalls narrated by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr.
“If you’re Donald Trump, you need every vote you can get, no matter how you can get it,” said Scott Jennings, who worked under President George W. Bush and is close to the Trump White House. “We’re in a close race. The president needs to tell their supporters to vote any way they can — and as soon as possible.”