By a large majority, voters disfavor his signature bill, the American Health Care Act (which now he concedes is “mean”!). Big tax cuts for the rich, the heart of his tax plan, are unpopular as well. In short, even if Trump could get back to his agenda, it is not going to find favor with the voters.
As for GOP support, let’s keep in mind a few things. First, he’s a minority president who got only 46.1 percent of the vote. He cannot afford to lose voters; he needs to gain support from independents and even Democrats. Second, the Virginia gubernatorial primary results and generic congressional polling show that Democrats have a decisive advantage when it comes to enthusiasm and engagement. Third, we have the Virginia gubernatorial primary results and in a week we will have the results of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District special election to test the proposition that as the GOP becomes the Party of Trump, it becomes less attractive to a mass of voters who have traditionally considered themselves to be Republicans. A shrunken GOP means losses in 2018, the potential for the House to flip to Democratic control and proceed to impeachment, and the emergence of either a primary challenger to Trump, a third-party movement or an enlarged Democratic Party with GOP defectors.
It is not illogical to conclude that Trump is losing the curious or skeptical voters who were willing to give him the chance given his Democratic opponent in 2016, the perception that he was a successful manager and his image as a less ideologically dogmatic kind of Republican.
Republicans would dearly love to keep running against Hillary Clinton, but she won’t be on the ballot in 2018 or 2020. Trump has proved himself thoroughly incapable of managing the executive branch, so much so that Republicans now try to defend his misconduct by saying he’s new to all this.
The lack of progress on major issues cements the argument that he is less capable than the “stupid” politicians he decried in the campaign. His stumbles on the world stage — getting into spats with allies, pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, inviting trade wars with key partners — reinforce the image of a blunderbuss who is making the United States less respected.
Finally, Trump has jettisoned his populist rhetoric and positions (promise of no tax cuts for the rich and no cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security) for a Scrooge-like agenda that would roll back Medicaid, make health insurance more expensive for many who voted for him, and deliver big tax cuts for the rich that would require big cuts in popular programs and would unleash a torrent of red ink.
Ironically, Trump offered the GOP the hope for an expanded GOP, one big enough to reach white, working-class voters. The GOP he now presides over is not only politically dysfunctional and unpopular, but also arguably smaller than the one he took over in 2016. Democrats have a tremendous opportunity if they keep their heads about them, make the case against not just Trump personally but also his Trumpian agenda, and offer their own agenda that is both positive and non-radical.