The Memo: Signs of trouble emerge in Trump’s base

President Trump took to Twitter on Monday to boast about the strength of his base of support. But polling tells a different story.

Trump, who is at his Bedminster, N.J., golf club, lambasted the media on Monday — his 200th day in office — insisting, “The Trump base is far bigger & stronger than ever before (despite some phony Fake News polling).”

As evidence, he cited large crowds at rallies in states including Pennsylvania, Iowa and Ohio.

But polls indicate that his base is in fact showing signs of erosion. 

{mosads}On Monday evening, a new CNN poll put his job approval rating at 38 percent. Just as worryingly from the White House’s perspective, the same survey showed his “strong approval” among Republicans sliding to 59 percent, from 73 percent in February.

In a Quinnipiac University poll released last week, Trump registered an overall job approval rating of just 33 percent. 

The president was even underwater among white people without a college education — the heart of his election-winning coalition last November — registering 43 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval with that group.

And the Quinnipiac poll, like the CNN survey, showed a decline in the share of Republicans approving of his performance. Among Republicans, his performance won the approval of 76 percent now in contrast to 84 percent in late June.

The assistant director of the Quinnipiac poll, Tim Malloy, said in the statement accompanying the poll’s release that “it’s hard to pick what is the most alarming number in the troubling trail of new lows for President Donald Trump.”

There are obvious reasons why Trump’s standing may have declined even among those previously supportive of him.

The failure of the GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, signals the breach of a promise that Republican candidates had made since the law’s inception in 2010.

Additionally, the deepening probe into allegations of Russian collusion with Trump’s presidential campaign could be taking a toll.

Republican lawmakers have become increasingly willing to distance themselves from Trump on that issue. 

They joined Democrats in passing a Russian sanctions bill with an overwhelming majority before leaving town for August.

In addition, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) separately introduced legislation with Democratic colleagues that would make it more difficult for the president to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading the probe into Russian matters.

But, for all that, some members of Trump’s base remain staunch in his defense and question the accuracy of the polling showing eroding support.

“I am in touch with a lot of the grassroots and I have seen precisely zero drop-off in support,” said Mark Meckler, the president of the Convention of States project. “Nobody is frustrated with the president, nobody is angry with the president.”

Meckler, who was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots but denies that his current project is inspired by that movement, added that distrust of the media was widespread among the president’s supporters. 

In his view, this leads to a defensive instinct to rally around him all the more, even when the news agenda seems to be negative for Trump.

“If anybody trusts the polls these days, they are just foolish,” Meckler added. “What people like me know is that if the polling shows the base falling away, the polls are false.”

Apparent evidence of erosion in the president’s support is not confined to the CNN and Quinnipiac polls, however.

Late last week, Republican firm Firehouse Strategies released a new survey of voters in four battleground states: Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania. 

It found that the share of Republicans who held “strongly favorable” views of the president had fallen from roughly 54 percent to 45 percent since April. The share of Republicans with unfavorable views had also risen significantly, from 20.5 percent to 27.9 percent.

The firm, whose principals include several strategists close to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), interpreted the results to mean “Trump’s base is shrinking. He cannot take continued GOP support for granted in swing states.”

Late last month, a breakdown of state-level Gallup polls also showed an interesting geographical divide in Trump’s support. 

His approval ratings were good in some bastions of support, including West Virginia, where he held a large rally last week. They were also adequate in Midwestern states such as Iowa and Ohio.

But in Republican redoubts in the South and Southwest, including Texas, Arizona and Georgia, Trump’s approval ratings were in negative territory — by 9 points in the first two states and 7 points in the third.

Still, Republican pollster David Winston cautioned against placing too much importance on what the polls are saying right now.

He suggested that most presidents experienced a fall in support in their first months in office. In Trump’s case, “this is a guy who got elected with 60 percent unfavorables, so his numbers were going to be inherently lower anyways.”

Winston added that the numbers that matter most to Trump’s prospects are not contained in any polls.

“How many jobs have been created and how much have wages gone up? All the other numbers — his poll numbers — will respond to whatever those numbers are.”

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

Tags Donald Trump Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio Thom Tillis

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