Kellyanne Conway: Trump's approval rating among Republicans needs to go up

Conway’s a loyal soldier for the the White House but never forget that she’s a pollster by trade. Confront her with data that’s unflattering to her boss and you won’t get the usual knee-jerk “FAKE NEWS!” reply. Instead you’re apt to hear her acknowledge that the trend is bad but can be turned around. That’s just what she did last fall a few weeks before the election when she admitted that Trump was behind. The trend did in fact shift by Election Day, as you may have heard.

Is she right that Trump’s job approval is down among Republicans lately? Damn skippy. Realistically it couldn’t be any other way given the implosion of health-care reform in the Senate. The latest data comes from the GOP pollster Firehouse Strategies, which surveyed Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania in April and August and found “strongly favorable” views of Trump among Republicans sliding nearly 10 points over that period. Unfavorable views rose more than seven points. The solution is simple, Conway notes: The more successful the president is at enacting his agenda, the more Republican voters will rally to his side. True, but how do you do that without Congress?

“They are telling him just enact your program,” Conway said. “Don’t worry about a Congress that isn’t supporting legislation to get big-ticket items done. And don’t worry about all the distractions, diversions and discouragement that others who are still trying to throw logs in your path are throwing your way. Focus on the agenda and he’s doing that. Nobody can deny these economic numbers.”

How’s the president supposed to enact his program absent help from a Congress that “isn’t supporting legislation to get big-ticket items done”? Conway’s right about that too, of course: Arguably the most significant legislation passed this year was the recent Russia sanctions bill, which was predicated on the fact that even Trump’s own party doesn’t trust him to drive a hard bargain when negotiating with Moscow. He can act unilaterally on foreign policy (and has, e.g., withdrawing from the Paris accord) but most of the meat and potatoes of his agenda requires a congressional buy-in. And that won’t be easy even on the marquee stuff:

Hill leaders have discussed ways to get Trump “enough” on border security so he feels they’re making enough progress to sign their funding bills. This could mean modest funding for the wall or other border security measures that moderates could live with, and/or other avenues to add funding to fight international crime gangs like MS-13.

But sources close to Trump say he’s dead serious about building an impressive wall and will go crazy when he realizes Congress has no plans to pay for it.

Hard to think of anything offhand that would do as much damage to the GOP in one fell swoop as a shutdown driven by congressional Republicans’ refusal to pay for the wall. The base would go nuts at Ryan and McConnell for stabbing Trump in the back; the other two-thirds of the country would go nuts that government funding is being held up for Trump’s unpopular wall project. It’s the rare policy turn that could tank the party’s support in every partisan group. So, the GOP being what it is, it’ll probably happen.

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