Swing State Pres

Sunday, February 3, 2019

BTRTN: Trump Has a New Reality Show: "Lost"

Tom highlights all the ways January was a loser for Trump in the BTRTN January 2019 Month in Review.

THE MONTH

Image result for donald trump loserJanuary was the twenty-fourth full month of the Trump presidency, and the first to be dominated by a single issue:  the government shutdown that lasted for 35 days.   Trump lost the shutdown war to Nancy Pelosi, lost a second sidebar war with her on the State of the Union, lost some face with his core constituents, lost some points he can’t afford to lose in his approval rating, lost a month of his presidency, and was under-informed, ill-advised, clueless -- in a word, lost – when it came to a number of key decisions that he made in the month. 

In short, Donald Trump simply lost January.

The shutdown, of course, began in December.  Trump essentially welched on signing a bi-partisan supported bill that funded the government, but did not fund a wall, after FOX’s Ann Coulter blistered him for being a wimp.  Trump then said, on live television and in the presence of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi “I am proud to shut down the government” over the wall, would take personal responsibility (“I will take the mantle”) for the shutdown and not blame the Democrats (“I’m not gonna blame you for it.”)  Schumer was simply beaming as Trump went on this riff.  He knew the losing had begun.

As the shutdown dragged on in early January, Trump tried many tricks to pressure the Democrats to yield, including an extremely strange Oval Office speech that failed to change a single mind, many lies about the “crisis” on the border, and threats to go around Congress by declaring a “national emergency” and funding the wall using other pockets of government spending, effectively usurping Congress’s expressed appropriation power under the Constitution.  None of it worked.   Pelosi, for her part, ensured that she and Schumer were in lock step, and the Democrats were entirely united as the stalemate wore on.

Then Pelosi pulled one out of her own bag of tricks, suggesting that Trump postpone the January 29th State of the Union address until the shutdown was over, and indicating that “for security reasons” related to the shutdown, she would not invite him (as is her prerogative) to give the SOTU in the House as per custom.  Trump retaliated rather peevishly by denying Pelosi and a Congressional entourage passage on military craft to visit the troops in Iraq, effectively canceling her trip minutes before they were to depart (he also violated protocol by revealing the very existence the trip, thus denying Pelosi and company a commercial transport alternative).  He then challenged Pelosi to directly disinvite him from giving the SOTU.  She called his bluff and within minutes did just that, ensuring that Trump lost the SOTU flap hook, line and sinker.

Trump’s advisers (including Jared Kushner) had assured him that centrist Democrats would ultimately cave on the wall, grossly underestimating Pelosi’s hold on her caucus – and her powers in general – and thus the shutdown dragged on, with missed paychecks, garbage piling high, Coast Guard personnel seeking handouts for food, and flights being cancelled due to air traffic controller sick-ins.  Finally, Mitch McConnell gave Trump a call and told him that Trump was losing GOP Senators, and thus Trump caved and announced, to incongruous staff applause, that the shutdown was over – at least for three weeks.

It was clear Trump had lost hands down.  The polls consistently indicated that Americans blamed him for the shutdown by roughly a 60/30 margin versus the Democrats – with these numbers, he should have caved much sooner.  (Schumer caved a year ago in just three days when it was clear he was losing his shutdown battle.)  Trump managed to deal himself a losing hand, slavishly addicted to his wall, instead of repositioning the Wall as symbolic of true border security and/or accepting some modest new fencing as part of a package. 

What is particularly odd about this loss is that it could have been a major win:  note well that any bi-partisan immigration legislation would be a win.   One of the great ironies of Trump’s narrow wall focus is that right-wing border security experts believe that the wall is a loser -- or at least a very low priority -- and favor the technology-plus-more-border-agents formula that Democrats advocate. 

The “national emergency” approach is yet another losing hand.  Such a presidential declaration still requires Senate approval – only 51 votes, within the GOP’s control, but it is no gimme.  Forfeiting Congress’s appropriation authority is no small deal, and the precedent is fraught – couldn’t a future Democratic president declare a “national emergency” on the environment, or health care, or education, and move funds without Congress to address these true crises?  It is hard to envision GOP Senators being thrilled with abrogating their constitutional authority lightly either in principle, or with such obvious unintended consequences.  And it’s easy to foresee “moderates” such as Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowsky and Ben Sasse, as well as their most conservative colleagues, balking at supporting Trump if he leaps down this losing rabbit hole.

The other truly amazing aspect of the shutdown is that Trump uncharacteristically failed to turn the page on a losing story.  He has been quite nimble at changing the subject during his presidency but – presumably because he thought he was not losing – the proverbial 24-news cycle was fixed for 35 days on the shutdown, one single story stretched out for what seemed like forever on a losing subject for Trump.

There were two other news items that broke through in this lost month for Trump, and both were also losers for Trump.  The first featured two of the biggest losers that Trump relied on in his campaign.  It was revealed that Paul Manafort, who makes Lee Atwater look like Walter Cronkite, had shared campaign polling data with Ukrainian oligarchs who had deep connections with the Russian government.  That doesn’t sound good.  And then Roger Stone, who makes Donald Segretti look like Judge John Sirica, was indicted for the crime du jour, lying to Congress.  Once again the question:  if none of these indicted losers did anything wrong, why were they all lying to Congress so persistently about what they did?

The other news item was that someone forgot to tell ISIS that they had lost and gone home.  That particular lie was shattered with the grim news that the terrorists killed 19 people in a suicide bombing in Syria, including four American service personnel, just over a month (35 days, in fact) after Trump tweeted a bizarre, off-the-cuff video announcement that ISIS had been defeated and he was pulling all U.S. troops out of Syria within 30 days.

What was particularly unsettling about this one is that subsequently Trump went to Iraq to visit the troops, where he claimed to be shocked --- shocked! – to discover that thousands of ISIS troops remained at large and were poised to continue aggression (and they lost no opportunity to prove it).  This caused Trump, under prodding from an outraged Lindsay Graham, to slow down his withdrawal timetable.  And yet, quite obviously, his intelligence briefings surely revealed the same facts to him in the comfort of the Oval Office, had he bothered with them. 

This anecdote is strikingly similar to the saga of Trump’s nominee for Attorney General, William Barr.  Apparently Trump was shocked to hear Barr announce, during his Congressional testimony, that Barr not only knew Mueller well, for 30 years, but that “the Barr’s and Mueller’s are good friends.”  No one briefed Trump on their longstanding connection, nor did Trump think to ask anyone, including Barr, about this?  Meanwhile, as the Senate ponders Barr's fate, lost boy Matthew Whitaker continues to serve as the most underqualified Attorney General in our history.

When combined with the terrible advice Trump received on the shutdown from Jared and company, you have ample evidence that Trump himself is totally lost, operating on amateurish instincts, ignoring expert advice, surrounded by sycophants who often have multiple jobs and wear “acting” titles (“I sorta like ‘acting.’  It gives me more flexibility.”)  It is truly shocking.

And this state of affairs is leading Trump inevitably on a march to his next reality show, come November, 2020, a permanent gig for the annals of history:  “The Biggest Loser.”


TRUMP APPROVAL RATING

Trump’s approval rating ticked down another point, to 42% for the month, and fell to 41% in the last half of the month, when the shutdown ended.  While Trump has not had two straight weeks of 41% since last April, he is still operating in an incredibly narrow range of 41% to 44% approval in the last year, and thus this fiasco of a losing month did not hurt him that much.  Having said that, Trump can’t be reelected with an approval rating in the low or even mid-40’s; he has to get closer to 50% by Election Day (barring a viable third party candidacy who might disproportionally punish the Dems, say, a Howard Schultz).

TRUMP MONTHLY APPROVAL RATING

2017
2018
2019

Ja
Jl
Ja
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
J
Approve
45
39
41
42
41
40
44
42
42
43
42
43
44
43
42
Disapprove
44
56
55
53
54
55
53
53
54
52
53
53
52
53
54
Net
1
-16
-13
-11
-14
-15
-8
-10
-12
-10
-11
-10
-8
-10
-12

While the approval rating is an excellent scorecard, perhaps the most noteworthy polling data point of the month was in a Washington Post/ABC News survey that showed that fully 56% of Americans said they would “definitely not” vote for Trump in 2020.  It does not take a mathematician to figure out what that means.


TRUMPOMETER

The “Trumpometer” was unchanged from December to January, remaining at +23.  The Dow recovered sharply, up +7% for the month, but consumer confidence flagged and the unemployment rate ticked up a bit (though, to be clear, the job market was strong as more people sought work).   Gas prices remained the same.  The +23 Trumpometer reading means that, on average, our five economic measures are +23% higher than they were at the time of Trump’s Inauguration (with more explanation below, if needed).

TRUMPOMETER
End Clinton  1/20/2001
End Bush 1/20/2009
End Obama 1/20/2017 (Base = 0)
Trump 12/31/2018
Trump 1/31/2019
% Chg. Vs. Inaug. (+ = Better)
 Trumpometer
25
-53
0
23
23
23%
  Unemployment Rate
4.2
7.8
4.7
3.7
4.0
15%
  Consumer Confidence
129
38
114
128
120
6%
  Price of Gas
1.27
1.84
2.44
2.36
2.34
4%
  Dow Jones
10,588
8,281
19,732
23,327
25,000
27%
  GDP
4.5
-6.2
2.1
3.4
3.4
62%


Notes on methodology:

BTRTN calculates our monthly approval ratings using an average of the four pollsters who conduct daily or weekly approval rating polls: Gallup Rasmussen, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist. This provides consistent and accurate trending information and does not muddy the waters by including infrequent pollsters.  The outcome tends to mirror the RCP average but, we believe, our method gives more precise trending.

For the generic ballot (which is not polled in this post-election time period), we take an average of the only two pollsters who conduct weekly generic ballot polls, Reuters/Ipsos and You Gov/Economist, again for trending consistency.

The Trumpometer aggregates a set of economic indicators and compares the resulting index to that same set of aggregated indicators at the time of the Trump Inaugural on January 20, 2017, on an average percentage change basis... The basic idea is to demonstrate whether the country is better off economically now versus when Trump took office.  The indicators are the unemployment rate, the Dow-Jones Industrial Average, the Consumer Confidence Index, the price of gasoline, and the GDP. 





No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment