The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion How Trump loses his base, the GOP congressional majority and the 2020 election

President Trump on March 21 said fact checkers correct him when he’s “off by one hundredth of a percent.” (Video: The Washington Post)

President Trump’s poll numbers, dreadful from the start of his term, have drifted even lower. His rock-solid support from his base has started to crumble.

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Americans disapprove of his performance by a stunning 37 percent to 56 percent margin, his worst ever from this pollster. Moreover, “Men disapprove 43 – 52 percent, compared to a 49 – 45 percent approval March 7; Republicans approve 81 – 14 percent, compared to 91 – 5 percent two weeks ago; [and] White voters disapprove 44 – 50 percent, compared to a narrow 49 – 45 percent approval March 7.”

Quinnipiac University’s Tim Malloy explains:

Most alarming for President Donald Trump, the demographic underpinnings of his support, Republicans, white voters, especially men and those without a college degree, are starting to have doubts. A total of 73 percent of American voters say President Trump and his Administration make statements without evidence to support them “very often” or “somewhat often.” Only 25 percent of American voters say Trump is more honest than most of the previous presidents, while 48 percent say he is less honest and 24 percent say he is about as honest. …
American voters do not believe 70 – 19 percent that former President Barack Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped during the 2016 presidential election. Republicans are divided as 41 percent believe it and 39 percent don’t believe it. Every other party, gender, age, education and racial group listed disbelieves this claim by wide margins.

Trump may not care about the truth, but his lies plainly disturb voters.

Given that the first midterm is a referendum on the party holding the White House, Republicans should fret that Trump will pull them under. In 2010, then President Barack Obama’s approval rating was in the mid-40s — just before a “shellacking” in which Democrats lost 63 seats and the House majority. Likewise, in 2014 Obama’s approval in the low 40s foretold an election in which the GOP picked up 13 House seats and nine Senate seats. Unless Trump dramatically turns things around, an election Republicans looked forward to may become a disaster.

Trump and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) argue 2018 will be a bloodbath for Republicans if they do not repeal and replace Obamacare. That is a distinct possibility because any bill that moves far to the right to make it out of the House will run into a stonewall of opposition in the Senate. And should a repeal bill actually make it through both houses and be signed by the president, Democrats will have a field day showing that it does not cover “everybody,” increases out-of-pocket costs and constitutes a big giveaway to the rich. The is the classic lose-lose proposition.

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Trump has time, to be certain, to get his approval rating up, but keep in mind that “the approval rating at which an incumbent candidate goes from being an underdog to a favorite for re-election is somewhere in the high 40s.” To date, Trump’s RealClearPolitics average approval has never been higher than 46 percent. If Trump is still in office, sometime in the 2019-2020 time period Republicans will need to decide whether Trump is likely to win reelection, and if not, whether a challenger would have a better shot at holding the White House.

All of that is far down the road. Republicans, however, should keep one thing in mind: Unless Trump puts scandals behind him and starts performing, he will drag the GOP under in 2018 and again in 2020. They might soon decide the party (not to mention the country) would be a lot better off without him.