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President Trump, campaigning on the West Coast, fixates on Democrats and his poll numbers

President Donald Trump arrives at Palm Springs International Airport in Palm Springs, Calif., en route to a fundraiser in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Palm Springs, Calif.
President Donald Trump arrives at Palm Springs International Airport in Palm Springs, Calif., en route to a fundraiser in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Palm Springs, Calif.(Evan Vucci/AP)

LAS VEGAS — President Donald Trump believes that wherever he goes, he can force the news cycle — and political fortunes — to turn in his favor. And that is why not even 24 hours into a four-day trip to the West Coast he has become noticeably irritated by reports on polls showing several Democratic candidates closing in on him in hypothetical matchups.

Trump began the day Wednesday by voicing those complaints at a volunteer event attended by his son Donald Trump Jr. and his son’s girlfriend, Kimberly Guilfoyle, in the restaurant of the Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. Journalists were not invited to Trump’s campaign breakfast, but a New York Times reporter was dining in the restaurant as a guest.

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“You know, we have internal polls that say we beat every candidate,” Trump told the crowd, at times veering off into specific polls that showed candidates ahead of him in individual states. “One thing we’ve done is we’ve shown the press to be corrupt and fake.”

Trump took aim at CNN and MSNBC for reporting on the polls but saved his special contempt for Comcast, which owns NBC Universal. Trump called the media conglomerate “corrupt” and a “disgrace to this country.”

In his remarks to supporters and later on Twitter, Trump was reacting to several recently released polls, including one by NBC and The Wall Street Journal, that show him trailing several possible Democratic opponents, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But Trump soon broadcast his irritation.

“Internal REAL polls show I am beating all of the Dem candidates,” Trump wrote on Twitter, shortly before departing to Rancho Mirage, California, for a private fundraiser. “The Fake News Polls (here we go again, just like 2016) show losing or tied.”

One Democrat in particular has drawn the president’s attention: Michael Bloomberg. For weeks, Trump has been preoccupied with the former New York City mayor and late entry to the Democratic presidential race, the money he is spending on his campaign and his rising popularity.

“Is corrupt Bloomberg News going to say what a pathetic debater Mini Mike is,” Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, using a nickname to insult Bloomberg, a billionaire who has recently enjoyed a surge of popularity but who is untested on the debate stage.

Trump, who does not enjoy extensive travel, agreed to the West Coast swing if he could stay at his hotel in Las Vegas, people familiar with the planning said. The trip is meant to showcase his reelection campaign’s aggressive push to drum up funds from high-dollar donors in California, a Democratic state where Trump is widely unpopular but enjoys some concentrated pockets of support.

At three back-to-back rallies in Phoenix, Colorado Springs and Las Vegas, Trump will also have the chance to connect with his base — with the added benefit that the rally in Arizona will take place Wednesday night in the middle of a Democratic debate.

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At his hotel, Trump, apparently not content to let his rivals have the limelight, suggested that he was thinking about swinging by in person upon his return to Las Vegas.

“Should I go to that debate?” he asked.

The counterprogramming will culminate with the Las Vegas rally Friday, the day before Saturday’s Democratic caucuses.

c.2020 The New York Times Company

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