Donald Trump’s detractors would argue that he was never really President to begin with. But with his approval rating having been historically low when he entered office and having now plummeted even further into humiliating territory, there comes a point where he becomes so toxic to his allies – and thus so unable to function – that he might as well not be President. Trump’s approval creeped down to 34% today according to IBD/TIPP. And now it’s become a political death march.
I don’t generally like mixing and matching numbers from different polling outlets, but when it comes to Trump, the numbers are in close agreement across the board. Last week a poll had his approval rating all the way down to 36%. The other day his rating fell further, to 35%, in a number which took on a ring of point of no return. And now today the latest poll has him down to 34% (link). At some point the plummeting nature of a president’s ratings becomes the story, and causes the number to fall even further.
It’s a given that some people who voted for Donald Trump have since come to regret it, but are not yet willing to admit it – at least not to a pollster. That explains why he still has a 34% approval rating, even though he’s failed to live up to virtually anything he promised his voters during the campaign. But even if Trump’s base continues standing by him (or pretends to stand by him), his current approval rating can still drop further.
The thing to keep in mind about approval ratings is that they’re a cross section of all Americans, not just those who voted. Only around a fourth of eligible Americans voted for Trump; a little more than a fourth voted for Hillary Clinton. The other half didn’t vote at all, yet they get surveyed in approval rating polls just the same. So what we’ve largely been seeing is an erosion of support from people who didn’t vote for or against Trump, but had been giving him the benefit of the doubt. Some non-voters have surely become tired of his antics and ineffectiveness and scandals, and revoked that benefit of the doubt. Other non-voters may simply be looking at his plummeting numbers and deciding that their fellow Americans must be right. In that regard, Donald Trump could theoretically drop to around 25%, even if he retains everyone who voted for him, just by losing every last person who didn’t vote for him.
Based on what we can learn from Richard Nixon’s demise, if Trump drops to 29%, his presidency is finished. He’ll have no remaining political capital, and any additional time he remains in the White House will be a miserable stalemate. And if he drops 25%, even his own allies will begin trying to oust him to protect themselves. What’s remarkable is that, less than a hundred days in, Trump is already just five points away from being dead man walking – and nine points away from ejection territory. And no one ever meaningfully bounces back from numbers like this. Contribute to Palmer Report
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report