The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Voters have had it with Trump

President Trump speaks in the Oval Office of the White House on April 26. (Susan Walsh/AP)

Americans in poll after poll continue to register their disapproval of President Trump and his policies. The Post-ABC poll taken after the release of the Mueller report shows 39 percent approve and 54 percent disapprove of his performance — roughly consistent with polls from Reuters/Ipsos (40/53), Politico-Morning Consult (39/57) and Monmouth (40/54) but less favorable than others.

The Post-ABC polls shows he gets poor marks on immigration (39/57) and his national emergency declaration (34/64). The special counsel’s probe didn’t change most Americans’ minds (58) about Trump but for those who were affected 23 percent felt more negatively and 11 percent more positively about him. By a wide margin, Americans understand he was not exonerated (53/31) and that he has lied to the American people (58/31).

A majority disfavors impeachment and reelecting him. A substantial majority (58 percent) say there is no way they’ll vote for him in 2020. A plurality say Trump’s handling of immigration, health care and trade makes them less likely to vote for him. Only on the economy does Trump’s performance narrowly weigh in his favor (39/32). Here too there is cause for worry for Republicans:

The result previews a fresh wave of populism that could reshape yet another presidential campaign with about 18 months to go before voters decide whether to return Trump to the White House.
This sentiment runs the deepest among Democratic and independent registered voters, but also exists among a significant slice of Republicans. About 8 in 10 Democrats and more than 6 in 10 independents say the country’s economic system gives an advantage to those already in power, while nearly a third of Republicans share that view.

What was Trump’s big accomplishment, the tax plan, is now a symbol of his decision to abandon economic populism in favor of crony capitalism and huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

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Finally, the Mueller report makes 36 percent less likely to vote for him and only 14 percent more likely to vote for him, with the rest unchanged.

Health care was the Republicans’ Achilles’ heel in 2018, and with Trump still vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act it could be in 2020 as well. The Associated Press reports, “The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds that Democrats enjoy a 17 percentage point advantage over Republicans in Americans’ assessments of whom they trust more to handle health care, 40% to 23%.”

Democrats have a substantial upper hand, provided they pick the right plan:

Fifty-seven percent believe the federal government is responsible for making sure all Americans have health care coverage, while 41% think it is not. …
Among all Americans, 42% support a single-payer plan like the one espoused by [Sen. Bernie] Sanders, while 31% express opposition. Another quarter say they are neither in favor nor opposed. Support breaks down along partisan and ideological lines, with liberal Democrats about four times as likely as conservative Republicans to back single-payer.
Christine Knapp, a Republican from Fresno, California, is concerned that Sanders’ approach might affect her current Medicare coverage. …
The partisan gap narrows significantly, however, for the option of Americans buying into a government program.
Overall, 53% support the buy-in option, with 17% opposed and 29% on the fence.
Similar shares of Democrats back the two plans. But Republicans are nearly twice as likely to support a public option plan as a single-payer plan, 44% to 22%.
Former vice president Joe Biden must prove that he isn't a politician of a different era. (Video: Danielle Kunitz, Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

Put this all together and you have a wounded president who is widely regarded as a liar and whose singular domestic objective for a second term — repealing the ACA — is hugely unpopular. Things could get worse for Trump if, for example, the economy cools down or if the Democratic nominee champions the super-popular public option plan, in contrast to Trump’s vow to take away the ACA (and, to boot, cut Medicare).

This does not, however, mean the Democrats are home free. We learned in 2016 that as bad as Trump is, a weak Democratic nominee whom Trump can demonize still might lose. Trump’s best and perhaps only chance for political survival is a Democratic nominee who lures the spotlight away from Trump’s failings, either because he or she has serious personal flaws or because the Democratic nominee can be painted as ideologically extreme and dangerous.

Whether Democrats think that Trump is the cause or the symptom of disunity, grave inequality, cynicism about government and fraying of democratic norms and institutions, you will be hard-pressed to find any who disagree with the premise that unless Trump is removed before 2020 or loses in 2020, none of the repair work necessary to address the conditions in which Trump flourished can be undertaken.

Logically, then, the single most important factor for Democrats should be electability. Whether they will choose their nominee on that basis remains to be seen, but a party doesn’t often have the chance to run against an incumbent president this weak and unpopular. Democrats better make the most of it.

Read more:

David Byler: Trump said the Mueller report was a win for him. He isn’t entirely wrong.

Charles Lane: Americans have their minds made up about Trump. Nothing is going to change that.

David Ignatius: Joe Biden is the best candidate to beat Trump

The Post’s View: Who would make the ideal president? Here’s where we start.

The Ranking Committee: Trump is a bulldozer. His 2020 challengers should stop searching for ‘lanes.’