Karl Rove says Trump is 'behind' in presidential race

Longtime GOP strategist Karl RoveKarl Christian RoveThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump takes on CDC over schools Karl Rove says Trump is 'behind' in presidential race Karl Rove: The days of 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' are long gone MORE acknowledged Friday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump on Kanye West's presidential run: 'He is always going to be for us' Marie Yovanovitch on Vindman retirement: He 'deserved better than this. Our country deserved better than this' Trump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' MORE is on his back foot heading into the general election, but said it's possible for him to regain ground before November.

“Let’s be honest about it: The president is behind today,” Rove said on Fox News's "America's Newsroom," referring to a slate of recent polls showing Trump trailing Democratic rival Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says Biden has been 'brainwashed': 'He's been taken over by the radical left' Trump says he'll wear mask during upcoming trip to Walter Reed Latino group 'Mi Familia Vota' launches M voter turnout campaign targeting swing states MORE nationally and in several key states.

“These things happen in campaigns,” Rove said. “The question is not, ‘Where are the polls today,’ but, ‘What does the president need to do in order to regain the advantage?’” 

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Rove, who has acknowledged informally advising Trump's campaign manager, weighed in amid GOP handwringing over the campaign’s messaging at a time of several converging crises.

Several Republican lawmakers have voiced concerns over the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and mass protests over systemic racism and police brutality. 

“I think right now obviously Trump has a problem with the middle of the electorate, with independents, and they’re the people who are going to decide a national election,” Senate Majority Whip John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP hedges on attending Trump's convention amid coronavirus uptick Finger-pointing, gridlock spark frustration in Senate Clash looms over next coronavirus relief bill MORE (R-S.D.) said Wednesday.

“I think he can win those back, but it will probably require not only a message that deals with substance and policy, but I think a message that conveys a perhaps different tone,” he added.

Trump appeared to compound on those concerns during a Thursday town hall in which he declined to specify his goals for a second term.

“What does he want to do next? No president gets reelected by simply saying, ‘I’ve done a good job,’” Rove said, adding Trump “needs to get a better answer” when asked what he intends to accomplish.

“You can’t win unless you’ve got a disciplined, focused campaign strategy,” he said. “And these polls point to the president and his team needing to reexamine what they’re doing and come up with a better game plan.”