Several people who have dealt extensively with Mr. Trump have suggested that he takes a dubious, even disdainful view of his most loyal followers. He takes them for granted because he knows they would forgive him for anything: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters.”
“The people Trump despises most love him the most,” said Howard Stern, who hosted Mr. Trump on-air for years, in May. His voters, Mr. Stern said, are people he would not want in his hotels. “He’d be disgusted by them,” he said. “Go to Mar-a-Lago, see if there’s any people who look like you. I’m talking to you in the audience.”
In his recent memoir, the longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen described the contempt with which his boss would speak about evangelical Christians, perhaps the president’s most durable corps of supporters. After a meeting with a group of pastors in 2011, Mr. Cohen says Mr. Trump asked him: “Can you believe this [expletive]?”
Until recently, it had been easy to consign the question of how Mr. Trump sees his supporters to the black hole of speculation about his true motivations, if anyone still bothers with that. In a broad political sense, Mr. Trump’s handling of the coronavirus has clearly driven away swarms of older voters, traditionally the Republican Party’s most bedrock constituency, who polls now show overwhelmingly support Joe Biden. As a general rule, saying that the coronavirus would “just disappear” or “go away” and that Mr. Trump himself feels 20 years younger after being treated for it is not going to play well with the demographic group — aged 65 and older — that accounts for roughly 80 percent of coronavirus deaths.
Mr. Biden has picked up on this message. Even before the president tested positive, Mr. Biden was pointing out how diligent the president always is in remaining physically apart from those who attend his rallies. “The next time he holds one, look closely,” Mr. Biden said during a visit to Manitowoc, Wis. “The folks who come are packed as tightly as they can be, risking disease, mostly without masks. But not Trump; he safely keeps his distance.”
Biden campaign sources say their candidate is absolutely targeting Trump-inclined voters by talking about how little he believes the president cares about them. Mr. Biden frequently brings up a recent article in The Atlantic, by Jeffrey Goldberg, that says President Trump has derided American combat troops as “losers” and “suckers.”
Mr. Trump denied making the remarks, though the allegations were later confirmed by The Washington Post, Fox News and other news outlets.