That point about the storm being worse than Hurricane Katrina is a shift from when Trump visited the island, at which point he declared that, because of the low death toll in Puerto Rico, it paled in comparison with the “real catastrophe” in New Orleans in 2005. (The death toll from Maria quickly jumped after Trump made those comments.)
But, of course, Trump’s reversal on the ranking of those two storms isn’t what attracted attention. Instead, it was his announcement that his administration had scored a perfect 10 on its response. Not an 8. Not a 9. A 10. The Nadia Comaneci of disaster responses.
Americans are less enthusiastic about the job that Trump’s team did.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen several polls asking people in various ways how they felt about Trump’s performance in Puerto Rico. Two weeks ago, the Associated Press finished a poll indicating that less than a third of the country approved of the president’s handling of relief efforts there and on the Virgin Islands. Last week, Quinnipiac University wrapped up a poll, with 36 percent of respondents saying that Trump’s team hadn’t done enough for Puerto Rico. More recently, CNN released a poll showing that 44 percent of Americans approved of Trump’s handling of the responses to all of the year’s hurricanes, including his well-received responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma last month.
We can get a sense of how poorly received Trump’s handling of Puerto Rico has been by comparing that recent CNN poll with one conducted before Maria made landfall. In September, 64 percent of Americans thought Trump had dealt with the storms effectively. After Maria, that rating dropped by 20 points.
Granted, 32 percent of Americans saying they approve of Trump’s handling of the storm doesn’t mean that the country gave him a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. Percentages don’t work that way. What’s more, opinions weren’t uniform. It’s more that Democrats gave him a 1 (11 percent) according to that AP poll, and Republicans a 6 (62 percent). By contrast, the AP found that 48 percent of the country approved of his handling of Harvey and Irma — a 5 on the 1-to-10 scale.
Trump may in fact be one of the only people in America to give himself a solid 10 on his response to Hurricane Maria. But if we know anything about Trump — and we all certainly know a lot about Trump — it would have been far more surprising if he hadn’t chosen one of the numbers at the extremes.