Does Trump Want to Fight for a Second Term? His Self-Sabotage Worries Aides

With the Russia investigation and impeachment, White House officials and others said, Mr. Trump was eager to fight, and did so fairly effectively. Now, they see his behavior as self-defeating, and his bursts of both anger and self-praise as futile against an invisible enemy like the virus and a protest movement he’s shown little sympathy for.

“He is the modern L.B.J., where everything has gone wrong and none of his skill sets are effective at what’s gone wrong,” said Anthony Scaramucci, who served as the White House communications director for one of the briefest periods on record — 11 days. Though he has since publicly denounced the president, Mr. Scaramucci has known Mr. Trump personally for years and remains friendly with some White House officials.

Nothing Mr. Trump has tried so far, Mr. Scaramucci said, has changed the narrative about his presidency, or shoved broader concerns about racism and the spread of the virus aside in news coverage.

“That’s why I know he doesn’t like the job,” Mr. Scaramucci said.

With less than five months until Election Day, Mr. Trump has seemed mostly unable, and unwilling, to make the modifications to his behavior that he was periodically able to make at key moments in 2016: agreeing to pick Mike Pence, a demure and religious conservative he had no previous relationship with, as his running mate, and quieting his Twitter feed in the immediate run-up to Election Day.

This past weekend, Mr. Trump eventually made what allies called a wise political move in abruptly announcing he would change the date of a rally his aides had planned for him in Tulsa, Okla., on Juneteenth, a holiday honoring the end of slavery in the United States. Even that was done in an ad-hoc fashion as Mr. Trump failed to tell aides about the change before tweeting it.

Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said Mr. Trump’s campaign compared favorably to a previous Republican incumbent who lost a re-election effort, President George H.W. Bush.

“I saw a lot more lethargy in the 1992 Bush campaign than I see in this one,” Mr. Cole said.

Still, the president has made public statements suggesting his mind is on life outside the White House.

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