President Trump may have had the worst fortnight of his presidency. His most cringe-worthy moments came during his horrific visits to El Paso and Dayton, but his most revealing episodes came this week with his multiple outbursts and head-spinning reversals. He has been at his emotionally and mentally shakiest, and perhaps a growing share of Americans simply cannot ignore it.
The Aug. 15-19 Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that just 36 percent of Americans approve of how Trump is doing his job, and 62 percent disapprove. He’s even in negative territory on the economy (46 percent approve, 51 percent do not), and draws at least 60 percent disapproval on health care, immigration, guns and foreign policy.
With similar findings, the latest Monmouth University poll tells us: “Trump’s overall job rating stands at 40% approve and 53% disapprove, which is similar to his 41% to 50% rating in June. ... The usual demographic clefts remain present — men are divided on the president’s job performance (49% approve and 43% disapprove) while women are decidedly negative (31% approve and 62% disapprove). White Americans without a college degree tend to approve of Trump (55% approve and 37% disapprove), while the reverse is true among white college graduates (38% approve and 57% disapprove).”
While most Americans oppose impeachment, the Monmouth poll says, “A majority (57%) of registered voters say it is time to have someone new in the Oval Office, while just under 4-in-10 (39%) feel that Trump should be reelected in 2020.” He is losing support just about everywhere:
In approximately 300 “swing” counties, accounting for about one-fifth of the total U.S. electorate, only 35% back the incumbent’s reelection compared with 60% who want a new occupant in the White House. Since March, support for Trump’s reelection has ranged between 33% and 45% across these swing counties. In 2016, Trump lost the cumulative vote in these counties by just one percentage point.
In the nearly 2,500 “red” counties that Trump won by an average of 36 points in 2016, his current standing is a comparatively narrower 60% for reelection and 36% for someone new. In the remaining 360 “blue” counties that Hillary Clinton won by about 35 points on average, only 25% of voters support Trump for a second term while 72% want someone new. Over the past five months, support for the president’s reelection has ranged between 51% and 60% in the “Trump counties” and between 21% and 25% in the “Clinton counties.”
This should provide a few takeaways for the 2020 election.
First, if he is less popular in red counties, blue counties and purple counties, the chances of winning the electoral vote and losing the popular (as in 2016) would seem unlikely. We see that phenomenon in some swing states where Democrats haven’t recently won electoral votes. (“Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are statistically tied with President Trump in Arizona, a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in a quarter century, according to a new poll.”)
Second, the notion that “nothing matters” — a cynical expression of conventional wisdom — is dead wrong. He’s losing support all over the place, especially among women. Even within his strongest base of support, he has managed to alienate a good chunk of voters. FiveThirtyEight points out, “Younger white evangelical Christians, however, express far less enthusiasm for Trump, even if they haven’t completely abandoned him. According to the 2019 Voter Study Group survey, only six in 10 younger white evangelical Christians (between the ages of 18 and 44) view Trump favorably, whereas 80 percent of those age 45 or older have a favorable opinion of the president.”
Third, the intensity of opposition to Trump is through the roof. In the mid-August Morning Consult/Politico poll, his strongly disapprove number (43 percent) is nearly 20 points higher than the strongly approve number (24 percent). While the country doesn’t want him out by impeachment, a remarkably high percentage really, really want him gone after 2020.
Fourth, Trump’s numbers have never been good, at best in the middle- or high 40s. It’s hard to imagine circumstances where he suddenly is able to add support after dividing voters for so many years and aiming so intensely at his base. This may inform Senate Republicans who are up for reelection in purple states and who could, in a lopsided presidential election, lose their majority as Trump drags down the entire ticket. Breaking with him this late probably won’t persuade voters to ticket-split if they’ve come to the realization that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his troops have been enabling Trump every step of the way.
Trump’s atrocious numbers should also inform Democrats’ decision about who is “electable.” The answer might be “anybody but Trump.” And while plenty of Democrats want to take no chances and go with the perceived “safe” candidate, the uptick in suburban women’s disapproval of Trump and their votes in the midterms might shift the definition of “electable.” The question should not necessarily be who is going to win white voters in the Upper Midwest, but rather who is going to win women everywhere. Harboring a karmic dream of a woman nominee ousting Trump, these are among the most engaged and enthusiastic voters. Perhaps the most electable presidential nominee, like so many of those elected Democrats in 2018, would be a woman with strong appeal to suburban women, college-educated voters, nonwhites and younger voters. As a reminder, three of the 10 candidates to qualify for the third debate are women.