Did Trump's SOTU cave make it more likely that he'll lose on the shutdown?

I say no, but only because there are so many weightier reasons why he’s likely to lose on the shutdown. Philip Klein says yes:

Sure, in the larger scheme of things, this childish skirmish doesn’t matter much. No lives are going to be affected by whether the date of a speech is on Jan. 29 on some other time. But in an ongoing negotiation with no real movement, any standoff is going to become a proxy battle…

As Mark Levin noted, Pelosi is going to now see this as weakness. Trump lashed out, he tut-tutted, but ultimately he gave Pelosi exactly what she wanted without getting anything in return.

Levin didn’t go as far as Klein did in predicting how the SOTU squabble might affect the larger standoff, but he’s disappointed too: “I hate to see the president do this. He’s being badly mistreated by Pelosi & she will view this as weakness. It’s also a very bad precedent. This is a battle for the nation’s soul. A rally was not the only alternative. There were solid alternatives, including the Senate & Independence Hall.”

It’s not too late. With enough pressure from the right, maybe he’ll move the speech to a new venue and deliver it as scheduled. Or maybe he’ll do the dramatic thing and show up at the House next Tuesday, with Pelosi free to respond how she likes. It *is* weird, though, that he’d decide to postpone the speech entirely instead of giving it at the appointed time in another location. It amounts to Pelosi enjoying limited veto power over his ability to speak to the public.

But no, I don’t think it’ll influence her resolve on the shutdown. The polling is enough to do that. Here’s a new one from, of all places, Fox News:

Approval of President Trump’s job performance stands at 43 percent, down three points from 46 percent in December. This marks his lowest approval in nearly a year; it was 43 percent in February 2018…

His approval is at or near record lows among men (45 percent) and “very conservative” voters (83 percent). Since last month, approval dropped 10 points among both Republican women (from 93 to 83 percent) and suburban men (from 53 to 43 percent), and 7 points among white evangelical Christians (from 78 to 71 percent).

Fifty-one percent blame him for the shutdown, 34 percent blame Democrats. And although 59 percent see the situation at the border as either an emergency or a “major problem,” 75 percent say the same about the shutdown. That is, the standoff that was engineered to solve the “crisis” in illegal immigration is itself a crisis to more of the public than illegal immigration is.

It’s not all bad for him, though. What’s more likely to weigh on Pelosi in choosing a path forward on the standoff, Trump’s disinterest in a fight over the SOTU or … this?

The pro-wall side of the public is smaller than the anti-wall side (43/51) but the pro-wall side is far more committed to seeing this stalemate through to victory. Which makes sense: If you’re pro-wall you’re probably passionate about border enforcement, if you’re anti-wall you may be anywhere on the spectrum from passionately opposed to “don’t much care either way, just want the shutdown over.” A plurality of Pelosi’s coalition would prefer to end this thing even if it means giving Trump what he wants than to let it drag on in the name of spiting him.

If Democrats had emphasized from the start that they won’t negotiate with Trump here because they refuse to incentivize future shutdowns by doing so, maybe her coalition would be more staunchly opposed to a deal. As it is, Pelosi claimed she wouldn’t negotiate because walls are “immoral.” Which was, and is, stupid and unconvincing.

As long as the public blames Trump more than her, though, she has leverage. And because we tend naturally to think of the president as the official whose first duty is public safety, any disasters that happen during the standoff that can be attributed to a lack of funding will be laid in his lap, not hers. Read yesterday’s joint statement by the unions for pilots, flight attendants, and air-traffic controllers alleging that “In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break. It is unprecedented.” If, God forbid, a plane goes down, public faith in the government — which was been declining for decades — might crash and never recover. And Trump will bear the brunt of that outrage, fairly or not. No one thinks the shutdown has reached a point yet where his approval ratings won’t fully recover once it ends but a catastrophe might change that.

A big labor strike is also a potential game-changer and is now being kicked around, although somewhat casually. That spectacle might drag Senate Republicans, who’ve managed to avoid the heat over the past month, into the picture. In addition to Pelosi’s poor messaging on the “immorality” of the wall, Democrats have been oddly reluctant thus far to try to spread the blame from Trump to McConnell and his caucus even though Democratic candidates stand to benefit from them doing so. Maybe Chuck and Nancy figure that any political damage done to Trump is destined to bleed down to GOP congressional candidates, in which case they should their fire focused on him. But the fact remains that 20 Senate Republicans plus a few dozen in the House could end the shutdown whether or not Trump approves by passing a funding bill and then overriding his veto. That would make righties irate (look again at the Fox News data above) which is why it hasn’t happened and probably won’t, but that doesn’t mean Dems couldn’t turn the screws on Senate GOPers by demanding that they act. The fact that they haven’t yet is a curious strategic choice. Maybe it’s coming.

I’ll leave you with Bill Kristol suggesting another way in which Trump’s cave on the SOTU might point to how the standoff ends.