Trump faces challenging path one year out from election

Trump faces challenging path one year out from election
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NEWTON, Iowa — A year before voters head to the polls to pick America's next president, the country stands bitterly divided over its own future, the leaders who will guide us there and even their fellow citizens.
 
The America that both President TrumpDonald John TrumpButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California Kavanaugh hailed by conservative gathering in first public speech since confirmation MORE and his Democratic rivals seek to lead is backed more strongly into its partisan corners than at any point in recent memory, less likely to give the benefit of the doubt to those on the other side of the aisle, less interested in compromise and even more suspicious of the other side's motives.
 
There are two things Americans do agree on: The first is the extent of the division within the country. Three-quarters of voters recently told Pew Research Center pollsters that most Republicans and most Democrats do not even agree on the same set of basic facts from which to begin a debate.
 
The second is the importance of next year's elections. Polls repeatedly find more Americans are interested in or enthusiastic about next year's vote than in previous years. A Fox News survey released Sunday found 85 percent of voters are extremely or very interested in next year's presidential election, a level that is already higher than polls conducted just before presidential elections in 2016 and 2012 and nearly equal to the level found just before the 2008 contest.
 
It is that cauldron of tumult in which Trump and the Democratic candidates for president begin their yearlong sprint to next November's election.
 
That election will be decided in places like Newton, a rural exurb 30 miles east of Des Moines that is home to the Maytag Dairy Farm, producer of all-American blue cheese, and the Iowa Speedway. Newton is the seat of Jasper County, one of 31 counties in Iowa and 206 across the country that voted twice for President Obama — and then for President Trump in 2016.
 
Now, Trump faces a more difficult path to reelection in Jasper County and across the country than any of his recent predecessors. His approval rating has never risen above 50 percent; his disapproval rating has averaged more than 50 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of polls since March 2017. In the Fox News poll released Sunday, 57 percent disapproved — matching the all-time high in that survey.
 
Even more troubling for the president, nearly half of voters say they are certain to vote against him in next year's race. Just 34 percent said they would certainly vote to reelect Trump next year, according to an NBC–Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday. But 46 percent said they would certainly vote against him.
 
By comparison, the same 34 percent said they were certain to vote for President Obama a year before his reelection in 2012. But only 37 percent said they were certain to vote against him. That meant Obama had to win over a relatively smaller share of the 27 percent who said their vote could go either way than Trump has to win among the 17 percent of voters who say their vote is up in the air this time.
 
Since he was elected, Trump's ratings have tumbled even among the key demographics he needs to win — or at least limit his losses among — if he is to rebuild his winning 2016 coalition.
 
Among male voters, his job rating is 7 points lower than the share of the vote he won in 2016, according to the Fox News poll and exit polls from that year. Among white voters, he is down 8 points; among suburban voters, down 13; and among even his strong rural base he is down 9. The white evangelical voters who gave Trump more than 80 percent of their votes in 2016 now give him a 71 percent approval rating, and 19 percent strongly disapprove of the job he has done.
 
"The political landscape is really tilting against the president," said Peter Hansen, a political scientist at Grinnell College who directs the school's national poll. "Opinions about Donald Trump are really calcified at this point. Very few people are open to persuasion when it comes to the president."
 
The Grinnell Poll, conducted by Des Moines–based pollster Ann Selzer, found only 38 percent would vote to reelect Trump, and 47 percent would vote for someone new. More than a quarter of white evangelical voters would vote for someone else, compared with the 16 percent who voted for Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJordan calls Pelosi accusing Trump of bribery 'ridiculous' DOJ watchdog won't let witnesses submit written feedback on investigation into Russia probe: report What are Republicans going to do after Donald Trump leaves office? MORE in 2016. Among suburban women, a key swing demographic, only 26 percent said they would vote for the president.
 
In state surveys, Trump faces a growing battlefield. Since Labor Day, Trump has trailed at least two of his potential Democratic rivals in polls conducted in five states he won in 2016: Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, North Carolina and Florida. He trails almost every Democrat in Maine, Minnesota and New Hampshire, three states where his campaign has signaled they hope to go on offense.
 
"For a battleground state like Wisconsin, voters are energized and the parties are intent on finding them and turning them out," said Charles Franklin, who conducts political surveys for Marquette Law School. Franklin's latest poll shows Trump trailing three Democratic candidates in a state he almost has to win to earn a second term.
 
The Democratic Party is still three months away from allocating the first delegates in its nominating contest, but the broad contours of the choice before Democratic voters is clear: Relative moderates like former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Biden leads among Latino Democrats in Texas, California MORE and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegButtigieg surges ahead of Iowa caucuses Overnight Health Care: Cigarette smoking rates at new low | Spread of vaping illness slowing | Dems in Congress push to block Trump abortion rule Ocasio-Cortez jabs 'plutocratic' late entrants to 2020 field MORE (D) make the case that the party should pick a nominee who can reach out to middle-of-the-road voters.
 
"I didn't just come here to end the era of Donald Trump. I am here to launch the era that must come next. Because in order to win and in order to lead it's going to take a lot more than the political warfare that we have come to accept from Washington, D.C.," Buttigieg told a crowd of more than 12,000 Democratic activists Friday in Des Moines.
 
 
"If we're going to meet the big challenges of our time, we need big ideas. Big ideas to inspire people, and get them out to caucus and get them out to vote. Big ideas to be the lifeblood of our party and show the world who and what Democrats will fight for," Warren said from the same stage half an hour later. "If the most we can promise is business as usual after Donald Trump, then Democrats will lose."
 
Republicans say Trump's numbers will change once Democrats make their choice — and Trump begins what is certain to be a nine-figure advertising blitz against his eventual rival.
 
But pollsters say they are struck by just how solid opinions about Trump have become. About three in ten voters have very favorable opinions of the president, and about half see him very unfavorably. Those voters with the strongest feelings are unlikely to move off their opinions, Franklin said.
 
"There's maybe that 20 percent total that could shift a little bit one way or another, and could be consequential in a close election," he said. "That is, under any normal circumstances, a very worrisome signal for any incumbent president seeking reelection."
 
The two parties are already hard at work trying to win over that 20 percent — and to keep enthusiasm high among those already predisposed to support their candidate. In Franklin's back yard, about 2,500 Democratic volunteers knocked on 50,000 Wisconsin doors this weekend alone. In Florida, the state Democratic Party said it is on pace to register 200,000 new voters by next July.
 
The Republican National Committee in July said it and the Trump campaign would train more than 6,000 volunteers in 14 key states.
 
Increasingly, though, the growing polarization of the electorate has meant both Democrats and Republicans are talking to their own voters, rather than a shrinking pool of undecideds in the middle. Even a year before Election Day, the partisans are taking sides.
 
"One unique feature about this election is the extent to which attitudes are hard-wired going in," Grinnell political scientist Hansen said. "This is an election that is mostly going to be characterized by mobilization, and to a much lesser extent around the margins on persuasion."