Vladimir Putin is on a bit of a hot streak among Republicans of late.
In new Gallup polling, more than 3 in 10 Republicans have a favorable view of Putin — almost three times the percentage who said the same in 2015. Twice as many independents have a favorable opinion of Putin as did two years ago. Those numbers have helped bump Putin's overall approval numbers to their highest mark in five years.
What's interesting in those numbers is that Putin's unfavorable rating — 72 percent — has stayed the same over the past two years. What that tells us is that a chunk of people who didn't know enough about Putin to offer an opinion in 2015 do now — and, broadly speaking, feel positively about him.
That movement is likely attributable to Trump's praise for Putin on the campaign trail and oft-stated desire to have a better relationship with Russia than the two countries enjoyed during the Obama years. In recent years, we've seen opinions on most every issue begin to track more and more with partisanship. Republicans like Trump, so they like who Trump likes. Period.
These numbers will provide more fodder for Democrats who have sought to use Trump's unwillingness to condemn Putin as evidence of the too-close ties between the Kremlin and America's new president. He's even making a dictator popular with Republicans, Democrats will argue.
For Republican elected officials not named Trump, most of whom are far less favorably inclined toward Putin, these Gallup numbers will give them some pause. Bashing Russia and Putin — once a sure-fire political winner with their political base — may not be such a slam dunk anymore.
It's one of the many ways — big and small — that President Trump is changing both his party and politics in this country more generally.