It hasn’t gotten the attention it likely warrants, but there is no doubt that President Trump’s approval numbers have now improved to their best position since just after he took office. While they are still historically weak, he has inched past the 44% overall approval in the RCP average, which is just barely past what I thought was his likely ceiling after he hit his low-water mark of just 37% before last Christmas.
Since his nadir of being 21 points under water about ten months ago, Trump’s disapproval rating is now just less than 8 points higher than the public’s approval of the job he is doing as president. From the standpoint of the upcoming midterm election, that is very likely the difference between Republicans getting totally wiped out, and the GOP somehow surviving, with at least their Senate majority intact and perhaps expanded.
So, why is this happening? If we first stipulate that we no longer live in a world where our politics are fully dictated by remotely rational forces, it is still possible to come up with some plausible explanations.
Here are a few of the most interesting factors driving this development:
- Winning the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation war brought home a couple of percentage points worth of Republicans who had resisted buying into Trump as president. As I argued at the time, this was the equivalent of their marriage of convenience with Trump producing a child. This means they are now more permanently bonded with him and likely won’t be seeking divorce anytime soon.
- The Bob Woodward book, just as I had predicted, had no negative impact on Trump and may have actually helped him by fully inoculating the president against all liberal media attacks. After all, as even fans of the fictitious rock band Spinal Tap know, you can’t go past “11” on a 1 to 10 scale. Interestingly, Trump’s poll numbers dramatically improved earlier this year shortly after the Michael Wolff book came out, which I also saw coming.
- The proof of that liberal media overreach in their constant and desensitizing attacks on Trump are having a net positive effect for him came when The New York Times recently did an amazing and devastating investigation into how Trump really got rich through blatant tax evasion from his father, and literally no Trump supporters cared.
- Much of the general public, those not obsessed with Trump’s tweets or the latest White House controversy, simply aren’t seeing any negative impact (yet) on their lives due to the Trump presidency. This makes them even more suspicious of what many of them see as the media’s over-the-top attacks on him.
- Almost two years since his election, most people think the economy is rather good, and, like wet cement finally hardening, are starting to see it (falsely in my view) as “owned” by Trump — and are giving him credit for that. It doesn’t hurt that in October voters were getting their quarterly financial statements based on a stock market which was at an all-time high (which is no longer the case after a dreadful last couple of weeks).
- The Russian investigation, partly by design because of the proximity to the election, has faded from the headlines. I don’t think this is a temporary development either. Much like the economy now being “owned” by Trump, so is the presidency itself. With “possession being 9/10ths of the law,” 2016 may be too much in the rearview mirror for many Americans to care about revisiting it, especially once we have had another election in a couple of weeks.
- Democrats have failed to combat Trump with a coherent and compelling counter message, and have no one who can credibly speak to swing voters from a legitimate national platform. Trump benefits greatly from having extremely unpopular enemies (he and his state-run media are experts at making sure this is case). When Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, Maxine Watters, Chuck Schumer, and Elizabeth Warren are the most prominent faces of the opposition, it should be no wonder that that over 40% of the country will cling to him no matter what, if only as protection against the wussified insanity of the other side.
Democrats will surely get more votes nationwide than Republicans on November 6th, and may still take control of the House of Representatives (though likely not by much). But by banking everything on Trump’s previously extreme unpopularity, they now risk their “blue wave” petering out before it actually reaches the shoreline.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at [email protected]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.