Saturday, June 6, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He imagined a world where he wasn't bleeding Republican support.

This afternoon, Trump tweeted a claim about his popularity with Republicans:

Trump does this a lot—and never actually says where he's getting the numbers. But as the Washington Post noticed recently, he is getting steadily more popular with Republicans in these imaginary polls, having risen from 93% to his current plateau of 96%.

While lying about his own popularity is par for the course for Trump, the reason he's likely talking about it today is significant. Trump's mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and especially his dictatorial approach to protests over police violence, have cost him the support of a number of prominent Republicans. As the New York Times reported today, Trump has lost the votes of the last two living Republican presidential nominees, George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. (The 2008 nominee, the late John McCain, didn't vote for him in 2016 either.)

Normally, incumbent presidents can take the support of every prominent member of their party for granted. Other notable Republicans who have refused to say whether they'll vote for Trump, or have said they won't, include:
  • Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Cindy McCain, widow of Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
  • Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL)
  • Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI)
  • Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH)
  • Secretary of Defense James Mattis (a Trump appointee)
  • Gen. John Kelly (Trump's former chief of staff)
  • Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN, later Trump's Director of National Intelligence)
  • Secretary of State Colin Powell
  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
  • Rep. Frances Rooney (R-FL)
  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-TN)
  • Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC)
  • Sen. John Warner (R-VA)
The bigger problem for Trump, who needs to be re-elected to prolong the period in which he is immune from prosecution, is that these prominent figures are following rank-and-file Republicans, not leading them. Trump has lost significant ground to Joe Biden in the past week, and now trails by an average of 7.1%.

Trump's average approval rating among all Americans has fallen to 41.6%.

Why does this matter?

  • Saying you're popular doesn't make it true, no matter how many times you do it.
  • It's bad if a president doesn't even pretend to care about people who aren't likely to support him.