Alex Isenstadt, Politico, February 2, 2021
Former President Donald Trump has blamed the election results on unfounded claims of fraud and malfeasance. But at the top levels of his campaign, a detailed autopsy report that circulated among his political aides paints a far different — and more critical — portrait of what led to his defeat.
The post-mortem, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, says the former president suffered from voter perception that he wasn’t honest or trustworthy and that he was crushed by disapproval of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. And while Trump spread baseless accusations of ballot-stuffing in heavily Black cities, the report notes that he was done in by hemorrhaging support from white voters.
The 27-page report, which was written by Trump chief pollster Tony Fabrizio, shows how Trump advisers were privately reckoning with his loss even as the former president and many of his supporters engaged in a conspiracy theory-fueled effort to overturn the election. The autopsy was completed in December 2020 and distributed to Trump’s top political advisers just before President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
The report zeroes in on an array of demographics where Trump suffered decisive reversals in 2020, including among white seniors, the same group that helped to propel him to the White House. The autopsy says that Trump saw the “greatest erosion with white voters, particularly white men,” and that he “lost ground with almost every age group.” In the five states that flipped to Biden, Trump’s biggest drop-off was among voters aged 18-29 and 65 and older.
Suburbanites — who bolted from Trump after 2016 — also played a major role. The report says that the former president suffered a “double-digit erosion” with “White College educated voters across the board.”
Trump’s personal behavior, the autopsy makes clear, contributed to his defeat. “Biden had a clear edge over POTUS on being seen as honest & trustworthy,” Fabrizio writes.
Trump’s response to the pandemic was also critical. The autopsy says that coronavirus registered as the top issue among voters, and that Biden won those voters by a nearly 3-to-1 margin. A majority registered disapproval of Trump’s handling of the virus.