Trump’s polls sag amid wall fight

President Trump on Monday rejected a proposal from a top legislative ally to reopen the government, even as a raft of polling suggested he is losing the battle for public opinion with Democrats over his demand for a border wall.

Trump’s dismissal of the plan to end the partial shutdown offered by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) signals the White House believes it can pressure Democrats into a compromise. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), buoyed by the polls, has shown no sign of budging.

Democrats introduced two more resolutions on Monday to reopen the government, doubling down on their strategy of moving measures to end the shutdown without paying for a wall on the Mexican border.

{mosads}Graham had floated the idea of ending the government shutdown for three weeks to pursue a broader immigration deal. But Trump said he turned down the offer, which resembles a Democratic proposal to reopen government in order to restart border security talks.

“I’m not interested. I want to get it solved. I don’t want to just delay it. I want to get it solved,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Monday morning

Graham’s offer came as Republicans in Washington have grown increasingly concerned as the shutdown dragged into a record 24th day and polls show most of the country blames Trump for the impasse.

A Washington Post–ABC News poll taken Jan. 8–11 shows 53 percent of Americans say Trump and congressional Republicans are mostly to blame for the shutdown, while 29 percent point the finger at Democrats.

And a Rasmussen tracking poll on Monday found Trump with a 43 percent approval rating among likely voters, a figure that has steadily declined, it said, since his speech last week on the wall from the Oval Office.

The influential Drudge Report led its website Monday with the headline “POLL TRUMP APPROVAL LOWEST IN YEAR” in red lettering, in what could be read as a signal to the White House about political damage from the shutdown fight.

Trump has flirted with declaring a national emergency to build the wall, a move that would circumvent Congress and end the shutdown.

But a poll from The Hill–Harris X conducted Jan. 12–13 found 69 percent oppose the idea.

Regardless, Trump appears to believe he has the upper hand with Democrats and can force them to back to the negotiating table.

Speaking to the American Farm Bureau Federation in New Orleans, Trump declared, “When it comes to keeping the American people safe, I will never, ever back down.”

Trump insisted the wall is needed to stop what he calls a humanitarian “crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border and accused Democrats of rejecting his funding request because they do not want to hand him a win ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

“We’re dealing against people who think they can stop me from building the wall,” he said. “They think that’s a good thing for 2020.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told reporters Trump is willing to go around congressional leaders and negotiate with “rank-and-file” Democrats, suggesting he would target moderates representing districts he won in 2016.

“I would ask a number of them what they think, because I have been reading their regional and local press back home, and what they say there is quite different than some of the national coverage,” she said. “They are telling their constituents: ‘Hey, I’m for some kind of fencing or barrier.’”

An administration official later confirmed to The Hill that two different groups of Republican and Democratic lawmakers have been invited to the White House for separate meetings Wednesday and Thursday for talks.

But there is no indication that backbench House Democrats are willing to break with Pelosi, who has refused Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding, and negotiate directly with the president.

There were signs late Monday of a bipartisan group forming in the Senate to find a way to end the shutdown, but that effort does not appear to involve Trump.

Some Trump allies have become frustrated with the White House’s handling of the shutdown, worried the fight is slipping away from the president.

Trump’s push for the wall, which has included an Oval Office address, a border visit and a daily haranguing of Democrats on Twitter, has thus far not moved the opposite party or the public in his direction.

It is a battle Trump can ill-afford to lose heading into his reelection race, some of his supporters say.

“Trump’s biggest appeal to his voters was his willingness to not only fight, but win those fights, and so a loss on what is his biggest campaign promise would be a catastrophe going into 2020,” said one GOP consultant, who requested anonymity to discuss the dynamics.

Trump seemed aware of those stakes during his speech in New Orleans, calling the wall “only one of many things that I promised” in 2016.

He highlighted other accomplishments he could sell to voters next year, such as the tax-cut bill, the repeal of ObamaCare’s individual mandate and the expansion of U.S. oil and gas production.

But Trump also acknowledged the wall is crucial, saying “if you don’t have that barrier, there’s not a thing you can do” to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking.

There is a sense on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue that growing pain caused by the shutdown could force the hands of Trump and Democrats to reach an agreement.

Absences by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff, who are among the 800,000 federal workers who missed their first paycheck on Friday, caused headaches for travelers across the country on Monday.

Waits for security screenings at the nation’s busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, lasted more than an hour, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Photos and videos showed lines snaking throughout the terminal.

“Delays at airports across the country today because of TSA staffing issues are a direct result of the Trump Shutdown,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement. “I hope President Trump realizes that being responsible for the longest government shutdown in history is no badge of honor—it will have untold negative consequences for months to come.”

Juliegrace Brufke contributed to this story.

Tags Appropriations Bennie Thompson Border wall Budget Donald Trump Drudge Report Kellyanne Conway Lindsey Graham Nancy Pelosi Shutdown

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