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Karl Rove says Trump is 'behind' in presidential race

Longtime GOP strategist Karl RoveKarl Christian RoveThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump, Biden set for dueling town halls amid battleground blitz Wireless industry calls on Trump to oppose efforts to nationalize 5G amid Pentagon push Trump's drive around Walter Reed: Good instinct or a bad gamble? MORE acknowledged Friday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus 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 BidenBiden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus Rally crowd chants 'lock him up' as Trump calls Biden family 'a criminal enterprise' Undecided voters in Arizona wary of Trump, crave stability 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 ThuneBiden owes us an answer on court-packing Government efforts to 'fix' social media bias overlooks the destruction of our discourse McConnell: Coronavirus relief deal unlikely before election 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.”