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Trump’s historically low approval ratings could spell trouble for Republicans

July 17, 2017 at 6:25 PM EDT
A round of new polls show historically low support for President Trump has slipped further since the spring. Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Judy Woodruff to discuss the president’s numbers, and how Americans see the Senate Republicans’ fight over the health care bill.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans continue their internal fight over the health care bill, as polls show strong disapproval of the Republican plan. And polling in the past week indicates historically low approval for the president at this point in his first term.

Multiple polls have Mr. Trump’s approval in the 30s or at 40, and his disapproval rating in the 50s.

For all that, it’s time for Politics Monday with Tamara Keith of NPR and Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.

So, it’s time to talk about polls again.

We don’t do this every week. We save it for special occasions.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Amy, seriously, there are a group of new polls, three or four polls out taken in the last week or so, that do show some slippage for the president in the last few months, particularly among independents. There’s a Washington Post poll that shows, what, a six-point slippage just since April.

AMY WALTER, The Cook Political Report: Right, just among — in general among independents.

(CROSSTALK)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.

AMY WALTER: When we first started talking about the president after his inauguration, we said this is a president who is starting with the lowest approval rating of any president that’s been inaugurated. Let’s see where he goes with this.

Instead of starting with a deep reservoir of goodwill and a honeymoon, which most presidents start with, he started with a deep — he didn’t have that reservoir of good will. Was be going to able to fill up that well?

And the reality is, here we are, six months later, he’s actually 14 points lower than what he was. He’s not filling it up. He’s draining it even more. And where it’s draining from, it’s from independents.

And that’s a danger point here, not just for the president, but really for members of Congress who are up in 2018. If you’re a Republican, you know your base is still behind you, Democrats have never been with you, but independents, those are the folks, especially for members who sit in sort of swing type districts, those are the people that they can’t afford to be losing by this percentage that the president’s losing by.

If he only has a 30, 31 percent approval rating among independents, it makes it very difficult for Republicans up in 2018.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Tam, we know the Trump folks already have their campaign committee up and running for reelection. How do they look at all this?

TAMARA KEITH, National Public Radio: It’s not clear what the campaign is actually doing in terms of moving toward reelection. He’s held some rallies.

President Trump tweeted over the weekend that he thought it wasn’t really that bad, that this poll wasn’t so bad. And, you know, the best thing the president could do to improve his approval rating — I guess there’s probably two things, one, maybe focus on some of the people who didn’t support him in the beginning and maybe try doing something, anything that wouldn’t be seen as strictly partisan.

And the other thing would be, you know, like, start winning. He has — you know, he promised you are going to be so sick of winning. But, you know, he hasn’t had the major legislative accomplishments.

The health care bill has gotten totally bogged down. It was supposed to be done maybe by April. And that’s something that his base really wanted. But he just has not done a lot of things. He did the executive orders that the base liked, but that turned off the independents and others.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And we even — you and I were just — we were just talking a moment ago, Amy, about when you ask people even about impeachment, 41 percent in a Monmouth poll support impeaching the president.

And you were just saying, for Richard Nixon at this point, it was much less than that.

AMY WALTER: For Richard Nixon going into the summary of 1973, his overall approval rating was basically where Donald Trump’s is right now.

The difference is the intensity of the opposition or the dislike of President Nixon among partisans. He had 25 percent approval rating among Democrats, Nixon did, in July of 1973. President Trump has about 8 percent approval rating among Democrats.

So, the intensity of opposition to the president has always been an issue. As Tam points out, he’s not getting the intensity of support among his base. And he made that decision when he came into office. Instead of trying to grow that base, he had a very narrow base of support, very narrow support among all kinds of voters, except for Republicans.

Instead of trying to grow it, he’s focused and doubled down on the small group of people who supported him all along.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, Tam, you’re talking about ways where the president could put some wins on the board.

Health care reform is one of the issues he has been focused on. This was another question in the Washington Post/ABC poll. And this can’t be considered good news for the administration. People were asked what they think about Obamacare vs. the Republican plan.

By 2-1, they prefer Obamacare.

TAMARA KEITH: Which is pretty remarkable.

Obamacare has seen — you know, it’s having better days than it ever had when President Obama was president. You know, I was out in Kentucky last week talking to voters.

Just a few little anecdotes. One woman I talked to supported President Trump, doesn’t like Obamacare, but is deeply concerned about the Republican health care bill, in particular the Medicaid cuts.

Another voter I talked to basically said, why the — what’s the rush? Why are they hurrying? Why don’t they slow down and do this together? He was also a Republican.

And then one other Republican I talked to said he didn’t really know what was in the bill, but he was glad it got rid of the individual mandate.

(CROSSTALK)

AMY WALTER: That’s the big problem right now.

There is nobody selling this bill.

TAMARA KEITH: Right.

AMY WALTER: We’re talking a lot about process. We’re talking a lot about members who are supporting or not supporting it.

There is nobody out there really championing this bill. Even the president himself is just sending out tweets saying, I sure hope you guys vote for it. We have been saying we’re going to vote for it.

He’s not going out. He’s not holding rallies. I looked at the amount of money that’s been spent since the end of May on ads that talk about this health care bill; $6 million have been spent so far in advertising; 5.8 million of those dollars have been spent on negative attacks on the health care or urging senators to vote against it.

So, without a champion, it’s not surprising to me at all that the health care bill that Republicans are putting forward isn’t particularly popular.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s probably similar to the ratio of what was spent against Obamacare when that was being debated.

But, Tam, this is — with the vote now delayed, the opponents are worried. I mean, the folks who don’t want this are saying it gives them time to build up opposition, more opposition.

TAMARA KEITH: Absolutely.

Mitch McConnell didn’t want to take a lot of time to let this bill stew. He wanted to hurry and get a vote on it. And there’s a reason for that, because the longer it just hangs out there, the longer people have to look at the Congressional Budget Office score, which is not out just yet, but the longer governors have to put pressure on their senators, the longer voters have to call into their Senate offices every single day, the harder it gets to make this happen.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s always easier to fight something than it is to support it.

But, having said this, Amy, your point about so much of this has been done behind closed doors.

AMY WALTER: That’s right.

Well, and without — again, without a real champion supporting it. But you’re right. This has not been done with committees. There hasn’t been a whole lot of public discussion or even within Congress a whole lot of public debate about this.

Tam is right. McConnell wanted to get this done, move on to something like taxes.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I promise we won’t talk about polls again for a whole year. Fingers crossed.

(LAUGHTER)

AMY WALTER: I don’t believe you.

(LAUGHTER)

JUDY WOODRUFF: Tam and Amy, thank you.

AMY WALTER: You’re welcome.

TAMARA KEITH: You’re welcome.

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