Trump’s approval rating as of Monday afternoon is 45.2 percent in the RealClearPolitics average. That is nearly equal to the level he was at on Sept. 24, the day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declared her support for impeachment. Before that, Trump’s approval hasn’t been this high since Feb. 20, 2017, a mere month after he was inaugurated.
Three years of nonstop attacks have done nothing to dent his support. The Mueller probe, incendiary tweets galore, “kids in cages” at the border and now impeachment: Against Beltway expectations, Trump has fended it all off.
Trump is also moving up in national polls against his potential Democratic rivals. Former vice president Joe Biden frequently led Trump by 10 or more points during the summer. But he hasn’t had a lead that large since late November, and he currently sports a mere 4.5 percentage point lead in the RCP average. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) now leads Trump by only 2.6 percentage points, just slightly more than Hillary Clinton’s popular vote margin when she lost the electoral college. Trump even leads the two other leading Democrats, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg.
This surely shocks and infuriates liberals. A man they view as at best utterly incompetent and at worst a vile and traitorous, incipient dictator is on the cusp of being able to defeat even the Democrats’ strongest candidate. How could this happen?
One answer is certainly the Democrats themselves. Anyone even remotely open to Trump’s appeal has long since tuned the daily hubbub out. The never-ending cascade of denunciations of even the most trivial of matters — remember the hullabaloo about the inscription on first lady Melania Trump’s coat? — has convinced them that “fake news” is a real phenomenon.
Democrats can’t even contain themselves when given a gift horse. The readout of Trump’s phone call with Zelensky was damning, but Democrats could not let facts speak for themselves. Instead, they first conducted closed-door hearings, the contents of which were mysteriously leaked on a daily basis. They then staged what can only be called a show trial in both the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees. The introductory and concluding statements from House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) at each day’s events made clear that judgment had been passed even before the witnesses could be questioned. Is it any wonder that Trump’s ratings have been on the rise since Oct. 27, just a few days before the House voted to authorize public impeachment hearings?
Trump’s approval is likely to rise in the near future as well. Americans tend to support aggressive military action against clear foes so long as U.S. soldiers aren’t killed. Trump’s ratings went up after the killing of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, as was the case for George W. Bush and Barack Obama after the capture of Saddam Hussein and the killing of Osama bin Laden, respectively. The U.S. attack that led to the death of Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani has been criticized by many leading Democrats, but it would be shocking if the news doesn’t give Trump at least a brief polling bump.
The economy is also helping Trump. The unemployment rate remains at 50-year lows even as the labor force participation rate is rising. That means more people are looking for work and more people are finding it. Wage growth is also up from the Obama years, with wages finally outpacing inflation. No wonder Trump’s job approval on the economy is 54.3 percent, substantially higher than his overall rating.
The looming Democratic primary battle works in Trump’s favor, too. Unless Biden defies expectations and scores an early knockout, Democrats will focus their fire on each other for months. Trump and the Republican National Committee have more than $200 million in cash on hand, which they can deploy in support of the president’s record and against the Democrats. Similar scenarios in 1996 and 2012 helped incumbents Bill Clinton and Obama move out to leads that they never relinquished.
There’s still 10 months until the November election. That’s an eternity in politics, and who knows what events will unfold that will test Trump’s mettle. But so far, he’s survived every blow the Democrats have tried to land and is still in fighting shape. Democrats have to wonder if anything can bring this man down.