Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump cheer during a campaign rally, Monday, Nov. 7, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
The 2020 elections are upon us and while we don’t know who will be running against President Trump, other than we know it won’t be Elizabeth Warren, handicapping of President Trump’s chances of reelection are already underway.
While President Trump’s approval rating remains mired in the low 40s…
…and compares unfavorably with most US presidents at this point in their presidency…
…this isn’t necessarily meaningful. My personal contention is that the “approval” rating is held down by a lot of people who “disapprove” of a lot of the ways Trump operates but are more or less supportive of what his administration is doing. The core Gallup question is:
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president?
Do I approve of the obvious snake pit that is the White House and the National Security Council? Or the Twitter attacks on anyone who happens to torque him up a bit? Or the rather estranged relationship he has with a lot of historical facts? Not at all. To a great extent, I think he’s hurting his own administration and limiting what it can accomplish simply because of the way he runs things. That said, more conservative actions have been taken by Trump in two years than by George W. Bush (who I admired) in eight. My gut feeling is that a non-trivial number of the “don’t approve” people will vote for Trump.
The approval rating is only politically significant if it signals widespread dissatisfaction within the GOP that leads to a significant primary challenge or a third party candidacy (such as Gerald Ford faced from Ronald Reagan in 1976 and George H. W. Bush in 1992). Right now, writing before the government shutdown has run its course over funding for the border wall, that doesn’t seem to be in the offing:
Approval rating with own party at end of 2nd year (Gallup):
George W. Bush 97%
Donald Trump 88%
Barack Obama 85%
George H.W. Bush 84%
Richard Nixon 79%
Ronald Reagan 76%
Bill Clinton 75%
Jimmy Carter 62%
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) January 2, 2019
The only president more popular with his party at this point in his presidency was George W. Bush in the afterglow of his response to 9/11. In fact, like Obama, he seems to have locked in the solid support of his party while being somewhat unpopular at large.
More telling is that the “misogynist” label so abused by the left and NeverTrump is that it doesn’t seem to be sticking to Trump within the GOP.
A truism of the midterm elections is that women in the suburbs revolted against Donald Trump—or were revolted by Mr. Trump—and took it out on Republican candidates. Surveying the carnage among incumbent Republicans, there is little reason to challenge this conventional wisdom.
Still, some of us on principle don’t feel at home with the conventional wisdom, even as we admit its undeniable reality. So this week we are going to spend some time with what may be America’s most determined political outliers—the women who love Trump.
They aren’t just women. They are self-identified Republican women. No one likes Mr. Trump more than Republican women do. This parallel truth about women in the electorate jumped out from the data in the Dec. 17 Fox News Poll, a random national sample of registered voters.
Mr. Trump’s overall approval rating in the Fox poll is 46%. His approval among Republican women is 93%—8 points beyond his approval among GOP men. Republican women outrun men in their support for Mr. Trump on virtually every issue Fox polled.
These women aren’t doubt-free Trumpians. Of that remarkable 93% figure, 36% “somewhat” approve of him.
If these two polls are accurate, it shows that President Trump will enter into the 2020 election season with a very unified and supportive GOP behind him. While this doesn’t ensure smooth sailing, it does mean that he has to be seen as a favorite for re-election. It also indicates that the suburban women who voted for non-GOP candidates in 2018 are not necessarily a lost cause once they are confronted with actual candidates rather than caricatures.
A subsidiary point is with the demise of the Weekly Standard and the move of the core of that outlet to a new site called “The Bulwark,” and the rather obvious slide of another prominent conservative publication into the NeverTrump space once occupied by Bill Kristol’s personal platform, the question of just how relevant are the reflexive opponents of President Trump to GOP voters. Two interesting data points basically say, “not very.”
At best, about 12% of Republicans seem to have any interest in the day-in-day-out OrangeManBad stuff that has become the staff of life to several conservative pundits. Once the reality of who the Democrats will nominate sets in, I suspect that number will get even smaller.