‘La Famiglia’by Marf
His shutdown has backfired and he’s vulnerable
For all the attention on Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump’s campaign and associated activities, the thing that will ultimately do for Trump – or save him – is politics. The latest reports, that Trump directed his lawyer to lie to Congress, are certainly not good news for the embattled president but nor are they catastrophic. For one thing, as he is fond of noting, Michael Cohen is not necessarily a reliable witness (although Trump’s relationship with the truth is hardly straightforward). More importantly though, impeachment is and has always been a political process rather than a legal one – and the politics have favoured him so far.
Trump’s presidency has been all about keeping his base happy and generally he’s done a very good job of that. That has two related effects. Firstly, it all-but assures his renomination, barring accidents; and secondly, it creates a very significant disincentive for Republican senators and congressmen to act against Trump’s interests, for fear of a backlash.
Take away the support of his base though and he begins to look a lot more vulnerable. And Trump’s problem is that his support is falling and it’s his own fault.
Having taken ownership of the federal shutdown right at the start, the public are taking him at his word. More than half of those polled in nearly all the polls on the shutdown blame the president, against about a third who blame Democrats in Congress, and the figures are, if anything, getting worse for Trump.
Worse, his ratings have taken a hammering with his natural support. His net approval rating in one poll fell by 18 points among suburban men (+12 to -6), 13 points with white evangelicals (+56 to +43), 10 points with Republicans (+83 to +73) and 7 points with non-college white women (+20 to -4). Now, some of those scores still look pretty good – and they are – but they have to be offset against the very large numbers who hate him with a passion.
Given that the Mueller investigation has been going on so long that it’s essentially become background music, the Cohen revelations have probably been treated by those who choose to believe in Trump as a combination of fake news and Deep State conspiracy. It’s Inside-the-Beltway talk. By contrast, the federal shutdown isn’t. Even if it doesn’t affect all that many people directly, it has a big indirect effect and it’s undermining Trump’s reputation as the Great Dealmaker. After all, the government has been in shutdown with workers furloughed for longer under Trump (within just his first two years of presidency), than under Carter, Reagan, Bush-41, Bush-43 and Obama combined.
Will it affect his support enough to cause Democrats to pull the Impeachment trigger? That does depend on whether Mueller can find something of a smoking gun. It also depends on whether they wouldn’t rather run against what ought to be a very beatable incumbent if he can’t rediscover his touch. But some Republican senators are already wavering on the shutdown; the hyper-partisan period of his presidency might already be coming to an end. If Trump’s ratings with his base continue to fall, that will have a knock-on effect on the generic Republican brand, which senators will have to take seriously (and note that the Republicans gained 9 seats in the 2014 senate elections: that’s a very high tidemark to be defending).
At present, Trump is 5/4 against with Ladbrokes to be impeached in his first term, and 2/1 to leave office due to impeachment or resignation. I don’t think there’s yet any value in either of those bets. It’s getting closer though.