“Thank you very much,” said President Trump as he arrived in the East Room of the White House for a meeting of the American Workforce Advisory Board. “Busy time.”
By the end of Friday’s meeting, he had signed two executive orders — one extending the terms of the National Council for the American Worker and the other instructing the federal government to prioritize job applicants’ skills rather than qualifications.
A third followed in the evening, making good on the president’s promise to protect monuments, memorials, and statues from protesters.
The busy day was exactly what close aides and allies wanted. Last week, a number of concerned members of Trump World spoke to the Washington Examiner warning that the president’s reelection campaign had become dangerously unfocused and urging Trump to portray himself as a man of action, in contrast with presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who rarely leaves home.
“He is getting the message,” said a member of his 2016 transition team. “This is the right track to be on.”
The issue came to a head last week after the president’s disastrous rally in Tulsa. After claiming that a million people had registered to attend, coverage was dominated by pictures of empty seats and clips of the 14 minutes Trump spent railing against the way the media had treated his U.S. Military Academy graduation appearance.
It followed weeks of polls that suggest Trump is lagging behind Biden in many of the battleground states that will decide the election. In a sign of the trouble his campaign faces, a survey published on Monday by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found that Biden has a 4-point lead in Georgia, a longtime Republican stronghold.
A former White House official said: “People don’t want to hear ‘woe is me’ tweets, they want to see him solving problems with action.”
Steve Bannon, who was appointed White House chief strategist by Trump in 2017 before the two fell out, was among those making the case publicly and privately for a change of direction.
“He’s the president of the United States,” he said on the John Fredericks radio show. “He’s not a candidate. You act like president of the United States, you take action like the president of the United States, you govern like you are president of the United States, you are going to be reelected.”
Fredericks, whose show has hosted a number of Trump allies making the same point in recent days and who is a member of the Trump/Pence 2020 advisory board, said he remained concerned at the way the campaign was dismissing polls that showed the president’s campaign was misfiring.
“The Trump campaign is running a losing effort,” he said. “Until you come to grips with that, you are not going to change anything. That’s the message we are trying to get out.”
But he said the sudden rush of executive orders and last week’s visit to the border wall suggested the message was getting through. The president, he said, had done more in three days toward explaining his second-term agenda than he had in the previous six months.
“If he continues to drive things himself that will benefit the lives of people, he will have a much better narrative than he does right now,” he said.
Simply beating up on Biden, he added, would not be enough to win the election without a clear manifesto for a second term.
Supporters believe the latest executive orders on employment and protecting monuments will chime with campaign priorities of rebuilding the economy plus law and order.
But for their part, campaign officials shrugged off the idea that a president who created 2.1 million jobs in 2019 alone, rolled back regulations, and helped more than 5 million people off food stamps needed to prove that he was a man of action or still in touch with voters’ priorities.
Samantha Zager, a spokeswoman for the Trump Campaign, said: “President Trump knows how to lead the economy back from the global pandemic: Last month saw both a record-breaking jobs surge and record-breaking consumer spending jump as the economy reopens and Americans get back to work.”