OFF TO THE RACES

A Three-Ring Political Circus

The real elephants may be gone, but the Republican variety and Democratic donkeys are providing plenty of entertainment.

AP Photo/Bill Sikes
Charlie Cook
Add to Briefcase
Charlie Cook
June 5, 2017, 8 p.m.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Cir­cus has gone out of busi­ness, but Wash­ing­ton is still provid­ing a three-ring cir­cus.

The first is Pres­id­ent Trump’s de­cision to drop out of the Par­is cli­mate-change agree­ment. In Gal­lup’s three-day-mov­ing-av­er­age track­ing polls con­duc­ted since Trump took of­fice, his highest ap­prov­al rat­ing for a three-day peri­od was 46 per­cent, and his highest full week was 45 per­cent, right after his in­aug­ur­a­tion. Since then, his weekly av­er­age has been 41 per­cent, with lows of 38 per­cent for a week and 35 per­cent for three days.

Over the past couple of months, Trump’s ap­prov­al/dis­ap­prov­al rat­ings have been re­mark­ably stable. On a good day, his ap­prov­al num­bers will tick up to 41 or 42 per­cent, and on a bad day they will dip down to 38 or 39 per­cent. Dur­ing and just after his trip to Europe, he was up to 41 and 42 per­cent, but in the sub­sequent Thursday, Fri­day, and Sat­urday in­ter­view­ing—the first three sound­ings after his Thursday morn­ing an­nounce­ment that the U.S. would drop out of the cli­mate ac­cord—his ap­prov­al dropped to 36 per­cent (with 58 per­cent dis­ap­prov­al).

In num­bers re­leased Monday af­ter­noon, cov­er­ing Fri­day through Sunday nights, he ticked up a point to 37 per­cent ap­prov­al, while his dis­ap­prov­al rat­ing went down a point to 57 per­cent. This is lower than his usu­al 38 to 42 per­cent ap­prov­al range, but only by a touch. In polling that looks at in­tens­ity, Trump’s strong pos­it­ives have de­clined while his strong neg­at­ives have inched up, but his over­all num­bers haven’t moved much.

Trump’s num­bers are bad, but oth­er pres­id­ents have had troughs too. In Gal­lup polling, four chief ex­ec­ut­ives have seen their ap­prov­al rat­ings drop in­to the 20s: Richard Nix­on (24 per­cent), George W. Bush (25 per­cent), Jimmy Carter (28 per­cent), and George H.W. Bush (29 per­cent). Ron­ald Re­agan dropped as low as 35 per­cent while Bill Clin­ton dipped to 37 per­cent and Barack Obama bot­tomed out at 40 per­cent. Among pres­id­ents who were not ini­tially elec­ted, Harry Tru­man fell to 22 per­cent, Lyn­don John­son to 35 per­cent, and Ger­ald Ford to 37 per­cent.

The second cir­cus ring is former FBI Dir­ect­or James Comey’s con­gres­sion­al testi­mony, which is sched­uled for Thursday. Giv­en all of the in­form­a­tion that’s already been leaked from Comey’s con­tem­por­an­eous notes, we aren’t likely to get a lot of earth­shak­ing rev­el­a­tions, but he will prob­ably re­in­force what we have already heard, which is not par­tic­u­larly help­ful to the White House. Spe­cial Coun­sel Robert Mueller is look­ing at a wide range of is­sues, but I don’t think we’ll be hear­ing a lot of leaks from his shop. The same can’t be said for the in­tel­li­gence and law en­force­ment com­munit­ies. Trump may wish he had treated the CIA and FBI with a little more re­spect a few months ago.

The third ring is the spe­cial elec­tion in Geor­gia’s 6th Dis­trict on June 20. Demo­crats came up short in two oth­er closely watched spe­cial elec­tions, but both were in dis­tricts friendly to Re­pub­lic­ans. The sub­urb­an At­lanta dis­trict looks a lot more like the ones that are go­ing to de­cide which party has the ma­jor­ity in Janu­ary 2019. Twenty-three House Re­pub­lic­ans are sit­ting in dis­tricts that Hil­lary Clin­ton won, and the 6th Dis­trict is one of the half-dozen or so oth­er GOP-held dis­tricts that Trump won but not by much—in this case, a bit less than 2 per­cent­age points. Demo­crats need a net gain of 24 seats to cap­ture the House.

An ana­lys­is by Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port House Ed­it­or Dav­id Wasser­man shows that Re­pub­lic­ans have a lot to be wor­ried about. Look­ing at the three ser­i­ously con­tested spe­cial elec­tions so far—the bi­par­tis­an primary in Geor­gia, the Kan­sas 4th Dis­trict spe­cial elec­tion on April 11 and the May 25 con­test for the at-large Montana seat—the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates got an av­er­age of 72 per­cent of the vote that Hil­lary Clin­ton re­ceived, while the Re­pub­lic­ans in those three dis­tricts av­er­aged just 56 per­cent of the Trump vote. Spe­cial-elec­tion turnouts are nev­er as high as they are in a pres­id­en­tial year, but these are three GOP-held seats where Re­pub­lic­ans simply didn’t par­ti­cip­ate in even re­motely the kind of num­bers that Demo­crats did. Ac­cord­ing to Wasser­man, Rob Quist, the Demo­crat in Montana, pulled 94 per­cent of the Clin­ton vote total while Greg Gi­an­forte cap­tured just 68 per­cent of the votes that Trump did, though he still ended up win­ning even after body-slam­ming a re­port­er. Look­ing at pre­vi­ous elec­tions, Wasser­man es­tim­ates that the Demo­crat­ic can­did­ates have over-per­formed what a “gen­er­ic Demo­crat” in a neut­ral en­vir­on­ment would have re­ceived by between 7 and 12 points.

Nobody knows what the polit­ic­al land­scape will look like in the fall of 2018, but at least in the sum­mer of 2017, this is not an en­vir­on­ment that should make Re­pub­lic­ans feel com­fort­able about their hold on the House.

What We're Following See More »
CAN STILL BE BRIEFED
Sessions Will Not Recuse Himself from Cohen Investigation
44 minutes ago
THE LATEST
DESIGNED TO THWART PATENT TROLLS
SCOTUS Upholds Patent Review Legislation
58 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a new government process for challenging the validity of patents, cementing a method that technology companies have used to knock out patent protections for more than a thousand claimed inventions. The court, in a 7-2 ruling written by Justice Clarence Thomas, affirmed the constitutionality of the new process, created by Congress in 2011 to offer a quicker and cheaper process for challenging patents before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, instead of going to court."

Source:
HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE MARKS UP BILL TOMORROW
Senate HELP Unanimously Passes Opioid Bill
2 hours ago
THE LATEST
5-4 RULING WTH 5 SEPARATE OPINIONS
SCOTUS Shields Foreign Companies from Alien Tort Act Claims
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Handing a win to business interests, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that foreign corporations cannot be held liable in U.S. courts for overseas wrongdoing under the Alien Tort Statute. ... By a 5-4 vote with five justices writing separate opinions, the court found that foreign corporations may not be defendants in suits under the ATS statute."

Source:
HEARING HAS BEEN POSTPONED
Allegations Against Jackson Include Drinking, Hostile Environment
3 hours ago
THE LATEST
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login