GOP turns sour: Satisfaction with direction of U.S. among Republicans down 17 points in a month

Less interesting to me than the Republican numbers below is the fact that there’s no offsetting increase among Dems. A rotten month for Trump should excite liberals while depressing GOPers, right? Not so.

But maybe that’s naive. Nothing short of an economic boom — or impeachment — is going to get the out-party truly jazzed.

That’s a major hit to Republican enthusiasm. Anti-Trumpers will blame Trump, naturally, as the past six weeks have been consumed with Russiagate, Comey, Mueller, congressional hearings, and the daily “which top staffer is getting fired soon?” rumor. Some Republicans are tiring of the Trump circus already. Trumpers will say no, it’s the opposite — the despair is over the fact that the rest of the party, starting with the congressional leadership, has let itself be consumed with Comey and the Russia investigation while the White House is busy trying to organize things like “infrastructure week.” Either way, nothing’s getting done legislatively (well, nothing publicly) and 95 percent of the news on TV every night is scandal-related. Bad vibes.

Relatedly, from the AP:

A poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 61% of Americans surveyed believe the president has tried to obstruct or impede the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election cycle.

According to the poll, another 37% said they don’t think Trump has done this.

The AP didn’t list partisan splits, but even if every one of that 37 percent was a Republican, there’s still a meaningful chunk of Trump’s own party left over that’s either unsure if he tried to obstruct justice or agrees with Democrats that he did. Gulp.

Nate Silver detected some erosion in Trump’s base late last month, noting the decline in the share of voters who “strongly approve” of him and the uptick in those who “strongly disapprove.” In February, shortly after he took office, those numbers were roughly equal at around 30 percent each. By late May, “strongly approve” had dropped to around 20 percent while “strongly disapprove” had risen to around 45 percent. Contra conventional wisdom, not all Trump fans are forever loyal. As recently as yesterday, Gallup’s daily tracker had his job approval at 36/59. (He’s up two points today.) It goes without saying that a decline in satisfaction among Republicans about the direction of the country would be … sub-optimal if it lingers through next year. Which is why the White House is already shifting towards a “base strategy” for 2018:

Some White House advisors are worried that if these most intense supporters lose their passion for him, there’ll be no way to regain the energy in time to fight off a fired-up left in 2018.

An evolving line of thinking: Trump will probably never be at 51% approval — the “strongly disapprove” number against him, which is around half the voting public, makes that virtually impossible. The strategy, therefore, has to involve keeping the diehard ginned up and driving up Trump’s “strongly approve” numbers. There’s little hope of converting Democrats — beyond the Midwest working class who already voted for Trump. So it’s crucial to keep a large enough base that’s willing to walk over glass for the President.

Which way does that cut on firing Bob Mueller? If he did it, his fans would read it as a middle finger to Comey, the media, and the “deep state” and would exult. Everyone else, including less pro-Trump Republicans, would freak out and the administration would spend months on damage control and distraction. A month of Russiagate and Comeymania knocked 17 points off of Republican satisfaction. What would, say, three months of Muellermania do?