The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Another peek inside the imaginary world where Trump is an unalloyed success

President Trump’s tweets may be a way of reassuring himself, along with his base.  (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

It’s always hard to tell whom President Trump is trying to persuade with his tweets. The target audience varies depending on the tweet, certainly, and generally speaking it’s safe to assume that he’s hoping to reassure his base that all is well while bolstering its ability to respond to criticisms of him. But, sometimes, you also have to wonder whether Trump is trying to convince himself that if he writes it down and can read it, the thoughts he’s expressing will actualize into reality.

Like these thoughts.

Everything in that tweet is wrong. But it presents an alternative reality in which Republicans are well-positioned for 2018 on the strength of tax cuts for which Americans have been clamoring. It’s a reality in which Republicans are flummoxed by Democratic refusal to develop a policy to ensure that those undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children can live and work here instead of being deported.

Let’s start with the generic ballot question. The question is a common one ahead of congressional elections, asking respondents whether they plan to vote for the Democrat or the Republican in November. Trump has decided that Republicans are now doing better than Democrats in that poll.

That assessment appears to stem from a survey he touted last week.

“Great pollster John McLaughlin,” however, says nothing of the sort. His most recent survey has the Republicans trailing the Democrats by three percentage points — a narrower margin than in other recent polls but still a margin in favor of the Democrats.

(Whether McLaughlin is still a “great pollster,” given those results, is undetermined.)

Trump appears to be crediting McLaughlin for the results from a Politico-Morning Consult poll released last week that showed the Republicans with a one-point advantage on the question, a status that is more of a tie for the Republicans. But that poll is what’s known in the business as an outlier. Since May, there have been 126 polls that included the generic ballot question. In 123 of those polls, the Democrats have seen a lead, including 26 of the 27 polls this year.

The average of recent polls, though, shows the Democrats with a seven-point advantage. That is less a tie than a lead — and not for the Republicans.

The Democratic margin has indeed narrowed since December, which appears to be a function of consolidated support from Republicans. Those Republicans also may be reacting to the passage of the tax law that month. But that law is not popular.

Two recent polls have the tax bill at 39 percent approval, one from Quinnipiac University and one from Fox News. In each, support from Republicans is more than 70 percent, so I guess it’s popular in a sense — that sense being “solely within Trump’s own party.” (Democrats want to take it away, given how it disproportionately benefits the wealthy at the expense of the federal budget.)

Then there’s DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program begun under President Barack Obama and slated for termination by a Trump executive action last year. DACA was instituted by Obama after Republicans in Congress blocked a push to allow those undocumented immigrants who were brought as children to stay in the United States — a proposal that’s widely popular. Trump and his party control majorities of both chambers of Congress and, if they wanted, could pass legislation making DACA the law of the land. (Critics have said that Obama’s use of executive action to implement the program was illegal and would be thrown out by the courts.)

Instead, Republicans are pushing for legislation that would include other changes to immigration law, which Democrats oppose. It’s not the case that Democrats want to do nothing on DACA — they made a symbolic stand in support of the policy that led to a government shutdown earlier this year. Democrats don’t, however, want to pass a bill that protects DACA recipients at the expense of other issues. The reason no bill protecting DACA was passed in 2010 stemmed from opposition from Republicans, not Democrats.

So Trump’s tweet was pretty accurate except for getting the poll results wrong, misrepresenting the popularity of the tax bill and making a false claim about immigration policy. For those eager to see Trump and his policy moves as effective and popular, the tweet is indeed pretty easy on the eyes, accurate or not.