Why President Trump is sagging in the polls


By Brian Howey

A national Quinnipiac Poll released this week puts President Trump’s approval/disapproval at 38/56 percent. Voters say 55-43 percent that he is “not fit” to serve as president. A Morning Consult Poll conducted in Indiana on Sept. 26 shows Trump’s approval/disapproval has declined from 55.3/33 percent in January to 49.8/44.9 percent. This comes less than a year after he carried the state by 19 percent.

Why, why, why? Let’s review quotes and events from this past week, starting with the hurricane disaster in Puerto Rico.

Three weeks after Category 5 Hurricane Maria made landfall, 16 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents have electricity; 63 percent have access to clean drinking water; and 60 percent of wastewater treatment plants are operating, according to FEMA and the Department of Defense. More than 40 percent of bank branches aren’t open and 560 ATMs are functioning for an island with a population of more than 3.4 million.

Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence visited the embattled island and vowed, “We stand with you and we will be with you every step of the way. We will reach every community and bring aide to every Puerto Rican in need.” But in a Category 5 Tweetstorm on Thursday morning, President Trump said, “Puerto Rico survived the Hurricanes, now a financial crisis looms largely of their own making. We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

On the topic of continuing the Iran nuclear deal, Defense Sec. Jim Mattis was asked by Sen. Angus King at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, “Do you believe it’s in our national security interest at the present time to remain in the JCPOA [Iran nuclear deal]?” Mattis responded, “Yes, senator, I do.” When Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford was asked about the Iran deal, he said, “Iran is not in material breach of the agreement, and I do believe the agreement to date has delayed the development of a nuclear capability by Iran.”

But Trump will decertify the deal, telling Fox News’ Sean Hannity, it was “one of the most incompetently drawn deals I’ve ever seen.” NBC’s First Read puts this in perspective: “Let that sink in: The president is taking a course of action on an international agreement because it didn’t align with his personal opinion. And his advisers — who disagreed — tried to come up with a solution that didn’t kill the deal.”

President Trump was livid at NBC for reporting that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “moron” at a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon, where Trump suggested increasing the U.S. nuclear arsenal tenfold. Tillerson denounced the report but refused to walk back the “moron” quote that included a demonstrative adjective. Trump took to Twitter on Wednesday night, saying “With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!”

U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) responded, “Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter. Are you tonight recanting the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect, and defend the First Amendment?”

The Washington Post quoted billionaire Trump friend Thomas J. Barrack as saying he’s been “shocked” and “stunned” by the president’s rhetoric and inflammatory tweets.

Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman quotes sources “close to the president” who described President Trump as “unstable,” “losing a step,” and “unraveling.” He quotes former aide Steve Bannon (who is launching a “revolution” against Republican senators) as describing the 25th Amendment, a provision authored by former U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh that would allow a majority of the Cabinet to remove a president from office. Trump responded, “What’s that?”

Recently, Trump traded insults with Republican Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, who said the president’s “reality show” is “on a path to World War III” with his tweets aimed at North Korean despot Kim Jong Un. Trump had tweeted: “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.” He later quipped in front of military brass, “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.”

“It’s like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something,” Corker continued. “He concerns me. Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here. They understand the volatility that we’re dealing with, and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Trump responded by referring to the chairman, who stands at 5-feet-7 and whose vote Trump will need on tax reform, as “Liddle Bob Corker.”

Finally, Pence and wife showed up at the Colts/49ers game where Peyton Manning’s number was retired, then left after a number of 49er players knelt during the National Anthem, something just about everyone expected. Pence kept his press pool in their vans, walked out, saying, “President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem.” Trump quickly tweeted, “I asked @VP Pence to leave stadium if any players kneeled.”

What was widely described as a “stunt” cost taxpayers about $250,000. But on this front, defending the flag plays to Trump’s base and more than 80 percent of Republicans are still on board with him. His problem is a candidate needs independents to win elections.

Brian Howey is publisher of Howey Politics Indiana at howeypolitics.com. Send comments to [email protected].

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