Why Trump Needs to End the Shutdown

This story was originally published on nationaljournal.com on January 26, 2019

My hunch is that this government shutdown will be over inside of a week or 10 days, tops. The truth is that nobody ever really wins in a shutdown showdown, but somebody usually loses, and President Trump ought to be coming to the conclusion that this time, that someone is himself.

The polling is irrefutable: In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, the president’s approval rating is 40.9 percent, and his disapproval—the highest since March—is 55.7 percent. Even those that are usually the most friendly to Trump, like the Rasmussen poll, show that he has lost ground in this fight.

As of Thursday morning, Trump’s strong approve in Rasmussen had dropped to 34 percent, and strong disapproval was up to 47 percent; what Rasmussen calls their “Approval Index” (strong approve minus strong disapproval) was at -13. Trump has endured 15 days in a row of double-digit negative Approval Index ratings. (In October and November there were none, and only five in all of December.) In the Jan. 20-22 Fox News poll, the president’s overall approval was 43 percent—down 3 points since mid-December and at its lowest level since February—with 54 percent disapproval, the highest since October 2017. Trump’s strong-approval number was 27 percent, while his strong disapproval was 42 percent.

Trump thought he could roll House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on the shutdown, but it’s clear that did not happen. Now Pelosi and Schumer ought to allow him to ease himself off the end of the limb by giving him some border-security funding—after all, they never opposed border security, only a wall. They should do this not out of compassion for Trump but to get the government reopened as speedily as possible. Too many people, whether they are government employees, farmers, or businesses who work with government, are getting hurt. The economy is being damaged at a time when world economic conditions are deteriorating, and there's no doubt that U.S. exports and workers will be soon affected. Besides, it never hurts to show that you are serious about actually governing, no matter what anyone else does.

One question is when—or whether—Trump will realize that his “all base, all the time” strategy is not likely to work in an election with an opponent who isn’t named Hillary Clinton. No one will know for at least another 15 months who Democrats will nominate, but it’s likely it won’t be someone as polarizing and baggage-laden as Clinton.

For Trump, there is no guarantee that 46 percent of the vote is sufficient to get 270 electoral votes next time around. In 2016, Trump won 62,985,134 votes to 65,853,652 votes for Clinton, a national popular vote GOP shortfall of 2,868,518. According to figures compiled by Cook Political Report House Editor David Wasserman, Democrats won 60,727,598, or 53.4 percent, of the national popular vote, in November’s midterm House elections, to 50,983,895, or 44.8 percent, for Republicans, for a GOP deficit of 9,743,703 votes. That we saw the highest midterm-election turnout since 1914 is noteworthy, but just as important is that 2018 Democratic House candidates collectively drew 92 percent of the total Clinton 2016 vote, while Republicans pulled only 81 percent of the total Trump vote.

The Pew Research Center pointed out last fall that in 2018, 20.4 million people voted in Democratic primaries, 4.1 million more than the 16.3 million who voted in GOP primaries. Compare that to what happened in 2014: 1.1 million more Republicans (12.8 million) voted in primaries than Democrats (10.7 million). Republican primary turnout increased by 27 percent, while Democratic primary turnout increased by 91 percent. These are some serious warning signs.

Now look at Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, the three states that effectively decided the presidency by a margin of 78,000 votes out of 137 million cast nationally. It has been frequently pointed out that Democrats went 6-0 in 2018 senatorial and gubernatorial races in those states, with Republicans losing the Wisconsin governorship that Scott Walker held for eight years as well as the Michigan governorship that term-limited Republican Rick Snyder occupied for two terms.

But little noticed is that in Wisconsin—where Trump won in 2016 by 23,000 votes, or seven-tenths of a percentage point—Democrats outpaced Republicans for the House in 2018 by 194,528 votes, 1,367,492 to 1,172,964. In Pennsylvania—another state that Trump won by seven-tenths of a point (44,292 votes)—Democrats drew 2,712,299 votes to 2,206,260 for Republicans, a difference of 506,039 votes. In Michigan—a state that Trump won by two-tenths of a point, or 10,704 votes—Democrats garnered 2,175,003 votes to 1,853,459 for Republicans. If there is any evidence today that Trump can match his 2016 performance in those states, it is not apparent. Name one state that Clinton won in 2016 that President Trump is more likely to win next year?

These are some pretty significant warning signs for Trump and his party and a clear sign that they need to get this shutdown over with, and start worrying about repairing the damage.