A new report this morning makes one thing abundantly clear about Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign: Trump was right that many things were “rigged” . . . in ways that benefited him or his associates. And in some cases, Trump’s campaign was the one doing the rigging.
In January 2014, Mr. Cohen asked Mr. Gauger to help Mr. Trump score well in a CNBC online poll to identify the country’s top business leaders by writing a computer script to repeatedly vote for him. Mr. Gauger was unable to get Mr. Trump into the top 100 candidates. In February 2015, as Mr. Trump prepared to enter the presidential race, Mr. Cohen asked him to do the same for a Drudge Report poll of potential Republican candidates, Mr. Gauger said. Mr. Trump ranked fifth, with about 24,000 votes, or 5% of the total.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump regularly touted polls that showed him leading while dismissing polling that showed him trailing. Part of this strategy relied on pointing to unscientific online click-in polls, the sort that his then-personal attorney Michael Cohen tried to rig in at least two instances. (Cohen later tweeted he attempted to rig these surveys at the direction of Trump.)
“Drudge does a big poll, hundreds of thousands of people vote after the debates,” Trump said in November 2015. “It’s an online poll, which I think are actually better in many respects than when they interview 300 people and they say, ‘You’re winning.’ I don’t understand 300 people.”
When polling consistently showed him trailing Hillary Clinton in the general election, Trump turned to online polls and dismissed other polls altogether.
.@realDonaldTrump: "I don't believe the polls anymore." pic.twitter.com/u4VWWF7TzP— POLITICO (@politico) October 18, 2016
And when polling showed a historically low approval rating as he entered office, Trump called the data “rigged.”
The same people who did the phony election polls, and were so wrong, are now doing approval rating polls. They are rigged just like before.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2017
National polling, of course, is about as accurate as it has ever been. And Trump’s “rigged” label often applies when he is losing but not when he is winning.
“You’ve been hearing me say, ‘It’s a rigged system,’ ” Trump said after securing the Republican nomination in 2016, “but now I don’t say it anymore because I won.”
A Trump associate in 2015 likened Trump’s obsession with polls to TV ratings. It was perhaps then not surprising when Trump compared network ratings to his poor performance in the first poll Cohen tried to rig in 2014.
“The #CNBC 25 poll is a joke,” Trump tweeted in March 2014. “I was in 9th place and taken off. (Politics?) No wonder @CNBC ratings are going down the tubes.”
Scott Clement and Emily Guskin contributed to this report.