The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Official testifies that Bolton had 'one-on-one meeting' with Trump over Ukraine aid Louisiana governor wins re-election MORE’s troubles are deepening, according to several recent opinion polls that show rising public support for impeachment.

Those polls include one released Wednesday from Fox News that sent shock waves through Washington. It indicated 51 percent of voters support impeaching Trump and removing him from office.

Trump pushed back at that poll vigorously on Thursday, as did his campaign. But the broader fear among Trump loyalists is that Republican elected officials will begin to follow the trends in public opinion — and peel away from the president.

It’s a legitimate worry, according to some moderate Republicans.

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Former Rep. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloRepublicans can't exploit the left's climate extremism without a better idea Progressive Latino group launches first incumbent protection campaign The Memo: Bad polls for Trump shake GOP MORE (R-Fla.), who served two terms in Congress before being defeated last November, told The Hill, “Republicans are coming to the realization that this is different than the Mueller probe. This is a lot more radioactive. They are coming to terms with the fact that there is real political risk here for members in swing states and swing districts.”

Dissenting voices have been heard within the GOP since details first emerged of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Trump pressed him to investigate former vice president and 2020 presidential candidate Joe BidenJoe BidenBudget official says he didn't know why military aid was delayed: report Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide READ: Foreign service officer Jennifer Williams' closed-door testimony from the House impeachment inquiry MORE and his son Hunter.

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDeval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field Jon Huntsman expected to run for governor in Utah MORE (R-Utah) has been the most prominent critic since then — and has incurred the wrath of the president. Trump has called Romney “pompous” and “a fool” on Twitter.

But the White House has also come in for criticism, even in Republican ranks, for being slow to settle on a single line of attack after Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLouisiana governor wins re-election Dynamic scoring: Forward-thinking budgeting practices to grow our economy Pelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' MORE (D-Calif.) announced her backing for the impeachment push on Sep. 24.

The administration has sought to patch that vulnerability in recent days, assailing the effort as partisan and an attempt to undo the 2016 presidential election. Those were among the points raised in an open letter to top Democrats from White House counsel Pat Cipollone that was released on Tuesday.

But the damage has already been done, according to the polls. 

An NPR-Marist poll released Thursday indicated that 52 percent of Americans back the impeachment inquiry, with 43 percent opposed. Independent voters had flipped within a few weeks from majority opposition to such an inquiry (50 percent to 44 percent) to majority support (54 percent to 41 percent).

Several other recent polls, from Ipsos, YouGov and Quinnipiac University, have shown rising support for impeachment. The Quinnipiac poll showed an outright majority (53 percent to 43 percent) supporting the inquiry and a sizable minority (45 percent) wanting Trump removed from office outright.

The Fox News poll released Wednesday found that 51 percent favored Trump’s removal from office, a position shared by 57 percent of female voters, 50 percent of white female voters, 39 percent of independent voters and even 12 percent of self-described “Trump voters.”

The following morning, the president complained on Twitter that he had “NEVER had a good @FoxNews poll” and asserted “whoever their Pollster is, they suck.” He followed up by contending that Fox “doesn’t deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be.”

A Trump campaign official also hit the poll, saying: “It’s not hard to get 51 percent in favor of impeachment when nearly half of those polled were Democrats. The media should put this poll where it belongs — in the garbage.”

But those statements also reveal the degree of concern around the president. Underpinning the anxiety is the sense that the Republican Party has stood by Trump so far only because it has been politically expedient to do so. If that changes, so too could party loyalty. 

“We often think of our legislative elected officials as leaders. They are not leaders. They are followers,” said Rick Tyler, who served as communications director for a Trump rival, Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators at White House Senators confirm Erdoğan played 'propaganda' video in White House meeting MORE (R-Texas), in the 2016 GOP presidential primary. “They will follow their constituents, they will follow their voters.”

Rick Wilson, a GOP strategist and strong critic of Trump, argued that the current furor over Ukraine is different from what has gone before.

Wilson said the polls had shifted because “Trump is indicting himself in these matters. He is saying the quiet part out loud, he is out there freely admitting what he did — ‘I called foreign governments to influence an American election.’”

But while Wilson insisted that there was growing dismay in Republican ranks, he acknowledged there would likely not be a wholesale GOP desertion of Trump anytime soon.

Elected officials, he said, “still have to live in fear that Donald Trump is going to tweet mean things about them or say, ‘We should primary so-and-so.' That is a fear that they can’t shake quite yet.”

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Others, more supportive of Trump, asserted that such a breaking point is unlikely to ever come.

“Absolutely not,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell, arguing that Republicans who abandoned Trump would doom themselves to defeat. “Running from him is a fool’s errand. Everything runs through Trump, so running from him is not a smart idea.”

But others wonder how tenable it is for the GOP to sing from a pro-Trump song sheet if damaging revelations continue to emerge. 

Fresh controversy was stirred Thursday after news broke that two associates of Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGrowing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide Top NSC aide puts Sondland at front lines of Ukraine campaign, speaking for Trump Bloomberg, Patrick take different approaches after late entries into primary race MORE had been arrested at Dulles International Airport near Washington and charged with violating campaign finance laws.

No one knows what could be around the corner, and that makes Republicans nervous — even as they also think Democrats could overreach in their pursuit of Trump.

Asked if he would vote to impeach Trump if he were still in Congress, Curbelo told The Hill: “I would certainly be supporting the inquiry. I think it is important to see [the outcome of] the inquiry before reaching a decision on articles of impeachment — and I think that applies to Democrats as well.”

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.