Sunday, January 13, 2019

Trump, the Shutdown and 2020

We don't know when the government shutdown over Trump's border wall will end. But one thing we do know: unless the political dynamic around the shutdown changes dramatically, Trump is probably hurting his bid for re-election.
Consider the facts, as laid out in two recent pieces by Nate Cohn for the New York Times and by Ron Brownstein for the Atlantic.
Cohn:
"There has been little polling since the government shutdown began last month, but what there is indicates that voters oppose a border wall, blame the president for the shutdown, believe the shutdown will have adverse consequences and don’t believe the government should be shut down over the wall.
The wall has consistently been unpopular, with voters opposed by around a 20-point margin over months of national surveys. That makes it even less popular than the president himself....
It’s hard to see how the issue can be used to help him win re-election. Midterm exit poll data, election results, voter file data and pre-election polls indicate that the president’s approval rating is below 50 percent in states worth at least 317 electoral votes (270 are needed to win)....
Data from the Fox News Voter Analysis of the midterms, a new competitor to the traditional exit polls, indicated that a majority of voters opposed the wall in states worth nearly 400 electoral votes, including in several states where the president’s approval rating was above water in the poll, like Ohio and Florida....[T]he wall [also] isn’t popular in Michigan..Pennsylvania [or Wisconsin], important battleground states...
Tying the [wall] to an unpopular shutdown seems particularly unlikely to help and, historically, voters tend to drift against the policy preferences of the president’s party.... [T]here is not much reason to think that the base, alone, is enough for the president to win re-election in a one-on-one race against a viable Democratic candidate. This could change. It has before. But with the midterms over, this is now the central political challenge facing the president. By that measure, it’s hard to see where a shutdown over the wall fits in."
Brownstein finds it equally difficult to see anything but a negative payoff for Trump in the wall-shutdown dynamic. He notes particularly the way in which this dynamic tends to push wall opponents, a significant number of whom actually Trump in 2016, away from the GOP or third party voting and towards the Democrats.
"After two years of arguing for the wall as president, Trump has shown no ability to expand its popularity. In 10 national polls conducted during his presidency, Quinnipiac University has never found support for the wall higher than 43 percent....
]T]here’s evidence that the voters hostile to the wall, and to many other aspects of Trump’s tenure, are less willing to give him the benefit of the doubt now than they were in 2016....Trump’s position among wall opponents has eroded dramatically....
In the [2016] exit poll, 18 percent of the college-educated whites who opposed the wall voted for Trump anyway, according to figures provided by Edison Research. But now, far fewer express support for Trump in general. In the latest Quinnipiac poll, just 3 percent of these voters approved of Trump’s job performance, according to data provided by Quinnipiac. Ninety-two percent disapproved.
Likewise, just over one-fourth of non-college-educated whites who opposed the wall still voted for Trump in 2016. But in the latest Quinnipiac survey, only 9 percent of these whites approved of Trump’s performance, while 83 percent disapproved. In all, fully 88 percent of Americans who oppose the wall say they disapprove of Trump’s performance as president.
Approval ratings correlate closely with the reelection vote for incumbent presidents....Trump’s relentless effort to cement the loyalty and stoke the outrage of his strongest supporters, compounded by his volatile behavior in office, is building a wall between him and the ambivalent voters who provided him critical support in 2016 (or at least withheld it from Clinton by splintering to third-party candidates).....
Trump’s monomania on the border wall shows that he remains fixated on the priorities and resentments of his core coalition. But even a 30-foot barrier probably wouldn’t protect him in 2020 if he allows the waves of discontent to continue rising among the majority of Americans who don’t consider themselves part of that ardent club."
If you like, go back and overlay these data on the Cook electoral college ratings I posted about yesterday. It's not a pretty picture for Mr. Trump. Getting to 270 in 2020 was never going to be easy for him. He's now making it even harder.

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