The latest polling is out, showing that even though he caved on the wall, giving Speaker Nancy Pelosi a three-week period to do a victory dance, President Trump’s approval rating is unchanged from before the shutdown.
Mr. Trump’s approval rating was steady even though more Americans blame the president than Congress for the shutdown, a change from past funding fights. Mr. Trump bears responsibility for the funding lapse, according to 50% of respondents, compared with 37% who said Democrats in Congress were most to blame.WSJ, Jan 27, 2019 (behind paywall)
The president’s political failure to get funding for his signature campaign promise–the wall–for the first two years of his term, with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, and now his failure to wrench the funding from intransigent Democrats through a shutdown, has shifted Americans’ perceptions of his ability to bring change to Washington.
When he took office, a plurality of Americans—45% to 33%—said Mr. Trump would change business as usual in Washington. In the new poll, that split has disappeared as 39% said the president has been good at effecting change, while 39% disagreed.
And more Americans now think Trump is less effective at “getting things done” than when he first took office. Still, the president has his core supporters, many of whom think he can do no wrong. They believe in him because they agree with his motivations, and give him a giant pass because he’s not a politician.
But as eye-opening as it is to many to see the outsider-fighter Trump lose his first skirmish to the consummate political hack Pelosi, the president is still wildly more popular than she is. Trump’s approval rating is 43%, with 54% disapproving; Pelosi is mired at just 28% approval, while her disapproval numbers have risen six points to 47% since last month.
In fact, Pelosi is the most unpopular politician tested in the survey. Not something she should be proud of.
Most Americans blamed Trump for the government shutdown–the opposite of 2013 when they blamed the GOP-controlled Congress. But it hasn’t really seemed to hurt him the way Democrats would like it to. In other words, Republicans gave Trump a pass for at least trying (“he fights!”). Pelosi gets no credit for winning from all but the most committed Democrats, who oppose the wall simply because Trump wants it.
In other words, the Democrats are stuck in the same rut they’ve been in since 2016. Their primary cause is to be The Resistance, to oppose Trump in everything, every time, no matter what. The president has been more than reasonable in his offers to get Democrats on board to fund the wall–much more so than he ever was with his own party. But they would rather suffer accusations of cynicism than work with him.
I can’t say that working with Trump has many advantages either, especially for Democrats. He baits them, he calls them to White House meetings and slams them in front of the media, he plays word games and brinksmanship games with them. No wonder more Americans in this latest poll–50%–think Trump isn’t prepared or equipped for the job
That is up 4 percentage points from two years ago, and more than twice the share who said the same thing about George W. Bush in 2001. Just 15% said they weren’t confident about then-President Obama’s personal characteristics for the job in 2009.
It’s not his qualifications that Trump’s supporters hang on to (no matter what they say publicly to defend him). It’s his intentions they value. Trump has successfully framed Democrats, and more broadly, liberals and the liberal media, as enemies of the values shared by most Trump supporters. This is why his support is so resilient and remarkably steady despite blows to the stock market and political turmoil.
Liberals, especially the liberal media, have done nothing to dissipate that mindset or dispute those accusations. In fact, they’ve done nearly everything they can to confirm it. The media is Trump’s best friend in keeping his numbers up, because most conservatives have nowhere else to turn.
No matter what happens, it’s likely Trump will retain this advantage over Pelosi. As unlikeable as the president can be to those who question his intentions, Pelosi is as likable as a wart in your bathing suit chafing between your legs after being buried in the sand all day.
She has three weeks to capitalize on this mini-victory on getting the government re-opened with no wall funding. Then we may be doing this all over again. Trump knows his core support will remain, but Pelosi and the Democrats still have much more to lose.
Of course, we’re another year away from actual votes in the 2020 election cycle. As we saw in 2016, Donald Trump’s core talent is turning the most heinous losses into slim victories by painting his opponents as scarier than he is. With Pelosi at the Democrat helm, it just makes Trump’s job easier.