Fox News host Sean Hannity arrives in National Harbor, Md., in 2016. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

A whip count, in theory, gauges support for a piece of policy on Capitol Hill. If we know how many votes are lined up in the House or Senate, we can get a sense for how likely it is that legislation will become law. It is often the functional equivalent of polling that shows who is leading in an electoral contest, but can also be central to understanding how various legislators are being persuaded on a complicated issue.

In the case of the tentative deal announced late Monday aimed at preventing a second government shutdown this year, there is really only one vote that counts: That of President Trump, who sparked the first shutdown fight last December by suddenly reversing his support for an agreement to fund key parts of the federal government. The central question for the current deal centers simply on how Trump views it.

In December, Trump’s reversal on support for a funding agreement had a fairly obvious cause: Conservative media quickly rose up in opposition to any agreement that did not include new funding for a wall on the border with Mexico. So Trump, tuning in, dug in on that point, giving up only after more than a month of federal employees working without pay.

In other words, the whip count that matters here is not really what legislators on Capitol Hill think. It is probably — and we recognize the bizarreness of this sentence — more important what conservative commentators and Fox News presenters think of the deal than it is what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) thinks.

Trump’s mornings often begin with watching recorded episodes of Fox News programs that aired the night before and tuning in to “Fox & Friends.” So here is a modern-day presidential whip count of what those programs are saying.

Sean Hannity, Fox News

Position on deal: Lean support.

“On this new so-called compromise, I’m getting details: $1.3 billion?” he said on his show Monday. “Not even a wall, a barrier? I’m going to tell this tonight — we will get back into this tomorrow — any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.”

Importance: Moderate. Hannity has Trump’s ear but will probably fall in line with wherever Trump lands on the issue.

Update: He fell in line. On Tuesday, Hannity said he is not “as concerned as some other conservatives if the president signs the bill.”

Laura Ingraham, Fox News

Position on deal: Oppose.

Over the course of several tweets, Ingraham called the reported deal “pathetic” and complained that the proposal did not “give one cent for the wall.”

Importance: Low to moderate. Ingraham’s long been outspoken on immigration and does not seem to capture the president’s attention in the way other Fox hosts do. That said, he does follow her on Twitter.

‘Fox & Friends’

Position on deal: Support x3.

The show’s three hosts all weighed in on Tuesday morning. Brian Kilmeade defended the amount of new barrier at the border that is included in the proposal while Steve Doocy noted Democrats did not want to build any new wall at all. (Which, we will note, this agreement apparently does not do.) Ainsley Earhardt called the deal “a big step.”

“I think the president’s probably going to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to take that,’” Doocy added.

Importance: Moderate to high. While none of the three hosts by themselves are necessarily directly influential over Trump, the president champions their program and obviously sees it as an important gauge of how his base feels. Like Hannity, though, the show’s hosts will probably side with Trump however he decides.


Ann Coulter speaks onstage during Politicon 2018 in Los Angeles. (Rich Polk/Getty Images for Politicon)

Ann Coulter

Position on deal: Oppose.

Before Coulter herself weighed in directly on the deal, she retweeted more opponents of it than apparent supporters. She spent most of Monday evening complaining that Trump’s campaign rally in El Paso included signs calling on Trump to “finish” building the wall despite no new wall having been constructed.

On Tuesday, she offered a verdict: The proposal was Trump’s “Yellow New Deal,” given that he was “afraid to fight” for the wall.

Importance: Moderate. Coulter’s fervent opposition to a deal in December is probably one of the main reasons Trump decided to dig in on the shutdown fight. (Her relentless mocking of Trump prompted him to take a dramatic action: He unfollowed her on Twitter.) Coulter does not seem to be as energetic on this fight as she was then, though that may change.

Lou Dobbs, Fox Business Network

Position on deal: Oppose.

On Twitter, Dobbs declared the proposed deal was “an insult” to Trump.

Importance: Low to moderate. Trump watches Dobbs’ show, but he seems less influential than Hannity. Dobbs has long been an immigration hard-liner, but he is probably going to figure out a way to back Trump regardless of outcome.

Matt Drudge, Drudge Report

Position on deal: Neutral (which may be interpreted by Trump as support).

Importance: High. Trump pays attention to Drudge’s headlines. That there is no red-type denunciation of the deal on Drudge’s homepage suggests he might be clearing a lane for Trump to sign off on the proposal.

Breitbart News

Position on deal: Likely oppose.

The main splash on the Breitbart homepage on Tuesday morning quoted Hannity.


(Breitbart News) (Philip Bump/(Breitbart News))

Importance: Low to moderate. Breitbart is less influential over Trump than Drudge but he probably still views it as reflective of his base. Often, Breitbart headlines will flood his Twitter feed. That does not seem to be the case this morning.

Jeanine Pirro, Fox News

Position on deal: Undetermined. She has not yet weighed in.

Importance: Low. Pirro’s support for Trump outweighs policy considerations.

Tucker Carlson, Fox News

Position on deal: Undetermined.

Carlson reported the agreement during his show Monday night as it broke but did not opine on it.

Importance: Low to moderate. Carlson’s been a critic of Trump at times, and he does not appear to be central to Trump’s informal Fox News Cabinet.

Rush Limbaugh

Position on deal: Likely support.

On his radio show Tuesday, Limbaugh did not immediately back the proposal, but offered reasons Trump might be able to support it politically.

“He can portray it as a win because the Democrats were offering zip, zero, nada even though it’s less than what Trump said he wanted,” Limbaugh said. "Then the president can continue in his efforts."

“Nobody can say he isn’t trying,” he later added. "Nobody can say he’s caved on the premise of controlling illegal immigration and shoring up the border. These are all of the things they’re factoring, I’m sure, at the White House.”

He also mocked those in the media who would argue Trump was waiting to hear from the conservative media before deciding what to do, saying they were “out of their gourds.”

Importance: Moderate to high. Like Coulter, Limbaugh’s opposition to a funding agreement in December apparently helped spur Trump’s decision to balk at signing it into law, kicking off the shutdown.

Predicting where Trump falls after checking in with prominent members of the conservative media world is tricky. As of writing, though, signs are good for passage: Support or neutrality from “Fox and Friends” and Drudge, with the strongest opposition from less influential (or more likely to flip) personalities.

We’ll update this document as more positions are announced. Because in 2019, this whip count actually matters.