President Trump’s Surprisingly Great Poll Numbers

by Jim Geraghty

Making the click-through worthwhile: some really surprisingly good poll numbers for President Trump and the Republicans, some tough questions about one of the president’s worst hires, Democrats recoil from a familiar figure as a surrogate on the campaign trail in 2018, and an unusual collection of guests at a 2013 dinner party that deserves more scrutiny.

A ‘Wow’-Inducing New Poll on Trump’s Approval and the 2018 Generic Ballot

Wow. White House staffers must be doing cartwheels this morning:

As a scandal regarding abuse allegations against a top White House aide emerged, voters were evenly split on whether they approved of President Donald Trump’s job performance, marking the first time in nine months that his net approval wasn’t in negative territory.

According to a new Morning Consult/Politico poll, voters are split, 47 percent to 47 percent, when asked if they approve or disapprove of the job Trump is doing as president. Six percent said they did not know or had no opinion.

If you think that’s shocking, take a look at the generic ballot numbers.

When asked which party they would support if the election was held today, 39% of voters said they would vote Republican, compared to 38% who say they would vote Democrat. This represents the highest support for Republicans since early November.

Republicans have nearly pulled even with Democrats when it comes to Independents (25% — 26%) and have increased support within the Republican base (84% — 8%).

The coming weeks should bring two big indicators about the GOP’s level of confidence for 2018. First, does Congressman Kevin Cramer complete his reversal and decide to run for Senate?

A North Dakota Republican dropped his short-lived bid for U.S. Senate Tuesday in anticipation of Rep. Kevin Cramer joining the race, although the third-term congressman was mum about his intentions.

Cramer said a month ago he would seek re-election to the U.S. House instead of pursuing a challenge against Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, the only Democrat elected to statewide office in North Dakota. But he said Friday he was “mildly reconsidering” his decision.

Cramer made no formal announcement regarding his intentions Tuesday but said in a text message that he’ll be back in Bismarck Friday. But former state Republican Party Chairman Gary Emineth, who announced his own Senate bid two weeks ago, dropped out Tuesday to make way for Cramer.

In 2012, Heitkamp won 161,337 votes, narrowly winning the seat as Romney won the state easily. But Cramer won the state’s lone House race with 173,585 votes.

And then in Florida, there’s the question of whether Governor Rick Scott decides to challenge incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson:

Scott ended 2017 with a 58 percent approval rating in Morning Consult’s polling, putting him in a tie for the eleventh most popular governor in America. And polls released Wednesday by the University of North Florida and Mason-Dixon Polling confirmed that Scott remains popular as he heads into the final nine months of his tenure as governor, with the UNF survey putting Scott’s approval rating at 63 percent.

Scott appears to have benefited from his performance during Hurricane Irma, when he was a highly-visible presence warning Floridians to take the storm seriously. Florida’s strong economy also benefits Scott, who has tried to position himself as the “jobs governor” and has relentlessly traveled the state in recent years to promote new job creation endeavors.

If the GOP gets its preferred high-profile candidates in those two states, and keeps Democratic incumbents nervous in West Virginia, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, and maybe Ohio and Pennsylvania, then suddenly 2018 looks like a good year, at least in the Senate. 

The Predictable Disasters That Unfold from the White House’s Hiring Decisions

Last night, Piers Morgan appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News and the pair lamented how awful Omarosa Manigault Newman was, and how terrible it was that she’s reinvented herself as an outraged former Trump staffer, revealing her disputes and disappointments behind the scenes at the White House.

“I don’t know why Donald Trump would ever let her in [the White House],” Morgan lamented. “She’s a reality television star whose only reason d’etre is to be a poisonous little viper spreading gossip and innuendo and terrorizing everyone in her way.”

What exactly was Omarosa doing in the White House during Trump’s first year? And . . . why was there no one around Trump to say, “hiring Omarosa to work in the White House is a terrible idea that will only lead to more problems down the road?” Or if someone did say that to Trump, why didn’t the president-elect listen?

Her title was “assistant to the president and director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.” Most of her relevant public experience was on Trump’s reality shows. There’s always been ample evidence that her . . . understanding . . . of the actual presidency was limited, declaring in September 2016: ”Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.” Yeah, that’s not really one of the enumerated powers of the presidency in the Constitution, ma’am. 

Having jumped from a White House gig to . . . another reality show, she’s now appearing on camera and lamenting of Vice President Mike Pence, “I’m Christian, I love Jesus, but he thinks Jesus tells him to say things. I’m like, ‘Jesus didn’t say that.’”

That’s the sort of quote that goes in a future Republican presidential primary ad . . . for Pence. Your faith mileage may vary, but Pence’s belief that Jesus guides him towards the right decisions and words is not exactly wild or outlandish in Christian circles. Surely she’s seen the bumper stickers “God is my co-pilot” and “My other boss is a Jewish carpenter.”

Politico offered new details about the murky circumstances surrounding her dismissal.

And in December, [White House Chief of Staff John Kelly] dismissed the former director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison, Omarosa Manigault Newman, who had been using the White House car service — known as “CARPET” — as an office pickup and drop-off service, something strictly forbidden by the federal government, according to three administration officials.

After Kelly dismissed her, Manigault Newman tried to storm the White House residence to appeal to Trump, according to one of the officials, accidentally tripping an electronic Secret Service wire that monitors entry and egress from the residence.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment about Manigault Newman’s departure.

Some might argue that when you elect a reality show host as president, you’re going to get some reality show contestants working in the White House as part of the deal. But if you do that, you get a reality show dynamic: drama and backstabbing and infighting and clashing egos. And maybe you get great ratings. But you don’t do what a White House is supposed to do. White House jobs are not meant to be a stepping-stone on the road to fame. White House staffers are to be rarely seen or heard, beyond the communications staff and highest-level positions. The point is not to generate drama, but to minimize drama. A president wants the White House to be a well-oiled machine, foreseeing problems before they manifest, adeptly addressing them, staying on message, and enacting the president’s vision for governing. Does anyone feel like this has occurred much since January 20, 2017?

You can blame the staff and argue Trump is being poorly served, but in the end . . . he hired these people, or signed off on hiring them. 

Bill Clinton and the Great 1990s Reckoning

It’s the great 1990s Reckoning. In the summer of 2016, two surveys found a significant number of African-Americans had changed their mind on O.J. Simpson: “More than 50 percent of black respondents said they thought Simpson was guilty — up from about 20 percent in most polls before, during and right after the trial.” The percentage of white respondents who believed Simpson was guilty increased slightly to around 75 percent. After twenty years or so, a consensus emerged.

We may be seeing a similar phenomenon around one of the other men who symbolized the decade . . . Bill Clinton:

In a year when the party is deploying all their other big guns and trying to appeal to precisely the kind of voters Clinton has consistently won over, an array of Democrats told POLITICO they’re keeping him on the bench. They don’t want to be seen anywhere near a man with a history of harassment allegations, as guilty as their party loyalty to him makes them feel about it.

“I think it’s pretty tough,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), vice chair of the House Progressive Caucus and one of the leading voices in Congress demanding changes in Washington’s approach to sexual harassment. His presence “just brings up a lot of issues that will be very tough for Democrats. And I think we all have to be clear about what the #MeToo movement was.”

Is this what they mean when they say, “the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice”?

ADDENDA: Shouldn’t this be bigger news?

Democratic National Committee Deputy Chair Keith Ellison attended a private dinner hosted by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, along with the head of the black nationalist group Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan.

First reported by The Wall Street Journal, Ellison, the Democratic congressman from Minnesota, also visited with Farrakhan in 2015. Ellison attended the 2013 dinner with two other members of the Congressional Black Caucus — Reps. Andre Carson, D-Ind., and Gregory Meeks, D-N.Y. 

The Morning Jolt

By Jim Geraghty