Davis: Incredible shrinking base

Davis: Incredible shrinking base
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The latest polls show that Trump and his core political advisors who celebrate how well he is doing with his “base” are wrong. His base is shrinking – every week, every month.

The big Democratic win Tuesday night by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, rejecting the Ed Gillespie campaign, which tried to out-Trump Trump in its hateful, fear-mongering, misleading ads, means Trumpism without Trump has been repudiated. The Democratic win was statewide – not only lieutenant governor and attorney general, but also, substantial gains in the state legislature.

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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Ayers decision casts harsh light on Trump NASA offers to show Stephen Curry evidence from moon landings Freedom Caucus calls on leadership to include wall funding, end to 'catch and release' in funding bill MORE can lie to himself and everyone else that this wasn’t a personal repudiation of his presidency.  But alternative facts won’t work here. Turn out among Trump base voters was down.

The results are consistent with recent national job approval ratings in the Gallup and the Washington Post/ABC polls published several days ago. Trump had 33 percent job approval in Gallup and 37 percent approval in the Post/ABC poll -- the lowest approval ratings for any president after one year since modern polling was invented some seven decades ago. Notably bad news for Trump and congressional Republicans in 2018:  Self-identified political independents, who now constitute, according to most polls, a plurality of voters in this country – disapprove of Trump’s job performance 66 percent-33 percent -- a minus-33 percent dangerous gap among the very swing voters who almost always decide close general elections.

But worse news for trump is his unmistakable, substantial shrinkage of support among base, core voters – i.e., Republicans, conservatives, rural, and white working-class voters lacking a college degree. These are the supporters that Trump once described as so loyal to him he could stand “in the middle of 5th Avenue [in NYC] and shoot someone” and they would still stick with him. 

Among these Trump base voters, the results show a steady decline in support: Disapproving of Trump’s job performance after one year are approximately one-out-of-five Republicans, more than three-out-of- ten conservatives and white men, almost four-out-of-ten white men without college degrees as well as voters with high school educations or less, and about one-half of voters in the South, Trump’s strongest 2016 voting region. 

Moreover, of all the cultural segments of the country that proved to be the most supportive of Trump are those voters living in rural areas. Yet the Post/ABC poll shows that a majority of these rural Trump base voters disapprove of his job performance.

Even in a recent Wall Street Journal / NBC poll of selected “Trump counties” in 15 states across the country – those that supported Trump by more than 20 percent more than the 2012 Republican candidate, Mitt Romney) or flipped from Obama to Trump in 2016 – Trump’s job performance was disapproved by 50 percent of these voters. 

Also contrary to the Trump White House mythology that Trump base voters love his apparent reckless Tweets and statements that sometimes make him appear to be mentally unstable, when the core Trump voters are asked whether Trump has the kind of personality and temperament to serve effectively as president, about one-half of white non-college educated men, the key voting group that delivered the presidency to Donald Trump, say no. Even one-out-of-four Republicans say no to this question. (Also, notable: Independents say no to this question by an astounding 39 percent margin:  68 percent no to 29 percent yes.)

Perhaps more dangerous to Trump’s tenure as president is the answer among his core true-believer base voters to the question whether Trump can “responsibly” deal with the reckless North Korean nuclear-armed regime – an issue that genuinely frightens most Americans, including Trump voters. A majority of rural voters said no.  White males without a college degree were just 50-50; and nearly three-out-of-ten Republicans said no.

In sum: no incumbent president in his right mind could consider this first-year report card, even among his core supporters, as anything other than a failing grade. And no president in his right mind who wanted to be reelected would fail to get off Twitter and start being a president, unifying rather than dividing the nation.

That is to say, no president in his right mind. 

Which is why I am certain Trump won’t change and will convince himself that these results in Virginia and these polls are all “FAKE NEWS” by “BIASED POLLSTERS.” 

More to come in this space on the extremely serious issue:  Does Trump’s mental state show such impairment and instability that he cannot be relied upon to responsibly discharge the duties and powers of his office? If his truest supporters have doubts about the answer to that question, imagine what the rest of the country is worried about.  

Stay tuned.

Davis, a weekly columnist for The Hill newspaper, is co-founder of both the Washington law firm Davis Goldberg Galper PLLC and Trident DMG, a strategic media firm specializing in crisis management. He served as special counsel to President Clinton in 1996-98 and a member of President Bush’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, created on the recommendation of the “9/11 Commission.”  Davis is the author of a forthcoming book to be published early next year: “The Unmaking of the President 2016: How FBI Director James Comey Cost Hillary Clinton the Presidency” (Scribner Books).