President Trump’s numbers seem omnipresent. They average in the mid-thirties. To most observers and when judged by history they are low. Considering that he was a minority President to start and his abysmal job performance, I find it surprising that they are actually that high. To a Republican elected official they present a bigger challenge than appears on the surface. Let’s explore.
As you follow my analysis keep two things in mind: The incredible political polarization in today’s America and Mitt Romney’s 47% remark.
Conventional wisdom is that the base of each Party is about one-third each with the remaining third being independents. In many states the number of registered independents is actually higher than one-third and often higher than at least one of the two major parties. Young people in particular are registering without party affiliation because they hate the label of both parties. Here is the political reality of that situation. Registrations don’t vote; voters do. Registered Democrats and Republicans are usually pretty reliable votes for their Party (if you can get them to show up – hence the importance of get out the vote (GOTV) efforts). Independents aren’t anywhere near as up for grabs as they like to think they are. While not affiliated with a political party the vast majority of them tend to be loyal to a philosophy and their voting pattern is pretty much entrenched by the third time they have voted. Although his remark was distasteful, the premise of Romney’s 47% statement was pretty accurate. Each Party probably has about 47% of the voters going into a presidential election leaving about 6% of truly undecided and persuadable voters to be battled over. That is especially true in recent years.
Let’s assume Trump’s approval rating fall to 30% (there is no guarantee of that happening). Since that comes almost exclusively from people who actually show up and vote in Republican primaries that is still a significant factor if you are a Republican running for reelection in a district where Trump is popular. That 30% of the electorate translates to about 60% of your Republican primary electorate. If you lose 60% of the vote you get killed in the primary and your career is over. You may well be sitting in a gerrymandered district where a Democrat can’t beat you but you have to get past the primary (by winning or going unchallenged) first.
This is why, particularly in the House, Trump is getting the support he is. House districts can be – and in most cases are – gerrymandered. You can’t gerrymander a state so Senators have a bit more freedom. (A six year term doesn’t hurt that cause any either!).
Don’t wait for the approval ratings to bring Trump down. They are more of a beauty contest than anything else. It will take some brave, patriotic Republicans to remove him from office. Hopefully there are a few of them with R’s after their names in the Senate.
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