Thursday, February 14, 2019


In The New York Times, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman describe an administration that's trying to limit its losses:
Trump Puts Best Face on Border Deal, as Aides Try to Assuage an Angry Right

In pursuit of a wall, President Trump ran into one. A single-minded drive to force Congress to finance his signature campaign promise has left Mr. Trump right back where he started, this time seeking a way to climb over the political barrier in his way after trying to charge through it did not work.

As he inched closer to reluctantly accepting a bipartisan spending compromise without the money he demanded for his border wall, Mr. Trump offered no acknowledgment on Wednesday that his pressure tactics had failed even as aides sought to minimize the damage by tamping down criticism on the right.

One call was made to Lou Dobbs, a favorite of Mr. Trump’s whose Fox Business Network show he often tries to catch live. Another was placed to Sean Hannity, the Fox host who regularly talks with the president. The message: Mr. Trump deserved support because he still forced concessions that he would never have gotten without a five-week partial government shutdown.

Even so, it was arguably the most punishing defeat Mr. Trump has experienced as president....
Meanwhile, Politico's Gabby Orr describes a president who's playing up his opposition to abortion in order not to lose the support of immigration-obsessed Evangelicals:
... Trump’s recent public focus on abortion ... has delighted his evangelical Christian supporters. During his State of the Union address last Tuesday, Trump used vivid imagery to claim that New York’s new abortion law would “allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.” And he accused Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who’s backed similar legislation in his state, of wanting to allow medical providers to “execute” babies after birth.

Abortion is a somewhat unlikely new cause for a president who years ago called himself “very pro-choice” and did not make the issue a central theme of his 2016 campaign. But people close to Trump say that he has developed an increasingly sincere passion for the cause.

That passion also conveniently dovetails with what they call a concerted recent effort to energize white evangelicals who might otherwise be turned off by the concessions Trump appears poised to make to Democrats who have refused to meet his demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding. In need of a boost with his base, Trump is turning increasingly to social and religious issues.
Both of these stories proceed from the assumption that Trump is struggling with his base. But is he?

A look at recent Trump job approval polls collected by Real Clear Politics suggests that Trump is making a comeback. During the shutdown, Gallup had Trump's approval disapproval numbers at 37%/59%. Now he's at 44%/52% -- 8 points under water rather than 22. Politico/Morning Consult had Trump at 41%/56% during the shutdown (-15); now he's at 45%/51% (-6). Fox had him at 43%/54% (-11) and now has him at 46%/52% (-6). The Hill's HarrisX poll had him at 44%/56% (-12) and now has him at 47%/53% (-6). And while even Rasmussen had him down by double digits during the shutdown (44%/56%, -12), he's now at 50%/49% (+1).

A couple of polls still show Trump struggling -- Economist/YouGov (41%/57%, -16), Reuters/Ipsos (39%/57%, -18) -- but the trend is obvious. Trump is averaging 43.6% approval -- still a weak number, but close to his 46.1% popular vote total in 2016.

The base doesn't think he lost. The base believes that he'll find a way to build the wall -- or that construction is already well under way. Trump is also benefiting from a lot of news (Ilhan Omar, the Green New Deal, Virginia) that plays in the right-wing media as confirmation of the belief that Democrats are a satanic force bent on destroying America and Western civilization.

Trump is trying to minimize his losses, but the numbers suggest that he's not losing at all -- his fans still think he's a winner, and all they really care about is that he despises Democrats as much as they do and never stops fighting them, regardless of the outcome. Baffling as it is to the rest of us, he retains the loyal support of nearly enough people to steal a second presidential election. That's unlikely to change in the next 21 months, so we have to work hard to outvote the diehards.

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