“You might not like his words or actions,” they write. “But measured in terms of what Republican voters want and expected, he's winning on important fronts.”
I think that's largely right, and we shouldn't discount what it means for Trump to lock down the support of his base. I also think the tax cuts, despite being perhaps the most unpopular piece of legislation passed in recent decades, could wind up being a net-positive (more on that later).
Trump's base strategy is and will remain a shortsighted one. Given all of these accomplishments, what is perhaps most notable is how popular and successful Trump could be if he would just, for lack of a better phrase, cut out the crap.
Quinnipiac University summed this up well in the headline of its new poll Tuesday:
U.S. VOTER ECONOMIC OUTLOOK HITS ALL-TIME HIGH,
QUINNIPIAC UNIVERSITY NATIONAL POLL FINDS;
BUT VOTERS DISAPPROVE OF TRUMP’S HANDLING OF ECONOMY
The poll found 63 percent of Americans described the economy as either “excellent” or “good” — higher than any poll since 2000, according to Quinnipiac and Gallup numbers. Yet despite that, Americans actually disapproved of Trump's handling of the economy by a 51-44 margin. Americans — including 3 in 10 Republicans — continued to give former president Barack Obama more credit for the economy.
Which is where tax cuts come in. Suddenly, we have a big piece of legislation that places more ownership of the economy on Trump's shoulders — and could mean he gets credit if things continue apace. The bill is overwhelmingly unpopular right now, but as the Daily 202 notes, 8 in 10 Americans will begin seeing their taxes reduced next year. The major drawbacks of the tax bill are raising the deficit, how it favors the wealthy and corporations, and that the personal tax cuts would expire in 2027. The local impact in the here-and-now for most voters will be more money in their pockets.
All of which could improve views of Trump's handling of the economy and even increase his overall political capital in the months to come.
Let's not forget how we got here and how Trump's stripes have decidedly not changed. Most of the accomplishments cited in Axios's report are not new; they have been progressing during Trump's first year in office. His penchant for controversy and divisive culture wars have put a damper on all of it. Historically speaking — and with this economy and his party in control of Congress — Trump should already be a popular president presiding over major pieces of legislation.
Yet he is not. He's got the lowest Year One approval ratings of a president in the modern era, and he's got his party staring down the barrel of a very arduous 2018 election in which Americans currently prefer to elect Democrats by a double-digit margin. Whatever progress Trump has been able to make, imagine what would happen if the GOP lost either the House or Senate majority come 2019.
Trump's presidency was never going to be perpetual failure and doom-and-gloom. He inherited an economy and a fight against the Islamic State that were both headed very much in the right direction. He also landed Republican majorities that gave him a great chance to pass even more “consequential” legislation. To his credit, he's finally got a big bill and has continued — and even accelerated — on those progresses.
That he hasn't so far been able to get more out of the hand he's holding — and that he seems intent upon distracting and detracting from what successes he has lodged — suggests he will keep being his own worst enemy in the future. That much has not really changed, even as this is perhaps a high point of his presidency.