President Trump's most prominent Silicon Valley supporter, billionaire Peter Thiel, has told friends and associates that he plans to sit out this year's presidential campaign because he thinks re-election is increasingly a long shot, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
PayPal founder and Facebook director Thiel, who was given New Zealand citizenship in 2011, donated millions to Trump's 2016 campaign and spoke at the Republican National Convention in the build-up to that year's election.
Thiel did not offer comment, but the Journal noted that Federal Electoral Commission records show he has not donated to Trump's re-election campaign.
Neither is the entrepreneur down to talk at the Republican convention this cycle.
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This month has also seen Facebook abandon its hands-off approach to Trump's often controversial posts, with the social network - faced with an advertiser boycott - agreeing to label all posts by political leaders that violate its policies around hate speech and fake news.
In recent weeks, however, in private conversations from his oceanfront estate in Hawaii, Thiel has said he soured on the President's prospects, the Journal said. (The Hawaii reference scotched rumours that Thiel has bunkered-down in his Queenstown home during the pandemic.)
Thiel said he believes it is likely the economy will be mired in deep recession in November, with double-digit unemployment, and any sitting president would be at a stark disadvantage to a challenger.
One person who speaks to Thiel about politics says he described Trump's campaign as the "S.S. Minnow," a reference to the ship that ran aground on the television series "Gilligan's Island, the Journal said.
A separate report in The Daily Beast, based on a leak from someone in Thiel's inner circle, said the entrepreneur has been "s***-talking" Trump over what he views as the President's hamfisted and botched handling of the pandemic that has resulted in a stalled economy, massive job losses, and a US death toll approaching 130,000.
Another person familiar with Thiel's recent griping said Thiel was "clearly very frustrated" with the President's uneven public appearances, particularly the daily White House press briefings Trump held that often ended in head-scratching pronouncements or politically disastrous boasts, The Daily Beast said.
Recent polls have Trump trailing Democrat challenger Joe Biden overall, and in key battleground states.