This is a model that Barack Obama expertly fit into, which is impressive considering that he also pushed the boundaries of presidential exposure. He was more available than past presidents were, as a kind of celebrity-in-chief, but he generally did a good job of maintaining this image of statesmanship. His personal favorability numbers remained strong during his term, even when his job-approval numbers fell. People were comfortable with him as “the president.”
The discomfort level with Trump, on the other hand, is so great that his numbers have fallen among Republicans, despite a decent record of policy victories. His refusal to behave how people expect the president to behave has come to dominate most aspects of the public discourse, and not in a good way for Republicans.
And make no mistake: If the GOP enters the 2018 midterm with Trump’s job approval mired in the mid 30s, it will be a “Katie Bar the Door” type of election. We saw a hint of this in Virginia, where Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie massively underperformed relative to his previous run for the Senate. Some Republican voters will stay home. Others will cast a protest vote for the Democratic party. This could have huge consequences for Republicans’ standing in the House of Representatives, for the organization of the GOP electorate is such that a lot of districts are something like 55 to 60 percent Republican. This helps pad the party’s majority when it is reasonably popular, but if the party loses even a small share of its voters to Democrats, it could result in a massive wave.