Gallup: Based on Clinton and Obama Benchmarks, Trump is On Track for Re-Election

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Posted: Apr 24, 2018 4:25 PM
Gallup: Based on Clinton and Obama Benchmarks, Trump is On Track for Re-Election

A headline to thrill Trump fans, and to terrify Trump haters.  In reality, the data merits neither polarized response, but thanks for the click.  Actually, I'm only partially trolling here.  Allahpundit flagged this interesting polling tidbit from Gallup yesterday, noting that President Trump's performance on a key re-elect question is virtually identical to where Bill Clinton and Barack Obama stood at similar points in their respective presidencies.  Each went on to win a second term.  The crowd that is absolutely convinced that Trump is toast in 2020 should take a long look at these numbers:

U.S. registered voters solidly believe that President Donald Trump does not deserve to be re-elected, by 59% to 37%. The percentage of voters who say Trump deserves re-election is essentially identical to that of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama at the time of the 1994 and 2010 midterm elections, respectively. More voters said George W. Bush deserved re-election at the time of the midterm elections in his first term, in 2002...By the time voters cast ballots in those presidents' first midterms that fall, the percentage of voters believing Clinton and Obama deserved to be re-elected had fallen to the same level Trump is at now. Midterm election outcomes are often a referendum on the incumbent president. Clinton and Obama both saw their party suffer huge losses in their first midterm elections, when fewer than four in 10 voters thought they deserved re-election.

Bush was still riding a strong post-9/11 bounce at the time, so that's the clear outlier; the examples of the two Democrats' experiences may therefore be more applicable to the current presidency. But one big distinction with Trump is the "uncanny" stability of his approval ratings, which is a double-edged sword: On one hand, his relatively high "floor" has thus far prevented him from plunging into extreme unpopularity. On the other, his "ceiling" has been notably low; topping out in medicore territory, and stubbornly refusing to climb any higher. In other words, even when they were viewed quite unfavorably, both Clinton and Obama had the capacity to change a lot of people's minds about their job performance. Does Trump?  Meanwhile, here are two of AP's big takeaways from the Gallup findings:

(1) The results are "a reality check for POTUS’s critics about his odds of winning again in 2020...Trump may never match the two Democrats but only a fool would write off his chances at reelection. The incumbent is always the favorite, basically without exception."

(2) If you’re dead set on drawing the Obama/Clinton analogy for Trump, you need to draw it all the way. Bill and O each won reelection for themselves but their poor ratings on the “deserves reelection” question in year two presaged brutal losses in the midterms for their parties. Clinton’s weak support in 1994 helped usher in the Republican wave that retook the House after 40 years. The backlash to Obama and ObamaCare in 2010 brought about a GOP tidal wave that handed the party the House again. If a ~37 percent “deserves reelection” share portends a midterm wipeout, Republicans are in for a whuppin’ this fall.

Some of the current polling offers more glimmers of hope for the GOP, compared to the Democratic wipeouts of 1994 and 2010, but Trump era electoral results strongly suggest that a blue wave is a-brewin'.  My attitude has consistently been that we should be talking about how big that wave will get, not whether it will build at all.  Parting thought: Let's say, hypothetically, that the US economy is still humming along two years from now, the president has emerged from the Mueller probe relatively unscathed, and some sort of landmark peace deal is achieved (even in spite of initial, understandable skepticism).  For any other president, that cocktail of circumstances would nearly guarantee a second term.  But would Trump even be in the ballpark of 50 percent on the "deserves re-election" metric, across an average of public polling?  I suspect he would not be, and yet I equally suspect that he'd still have a decent shot at winning anyway -- particularly if the Democrats make a foolish choice in their nominating process.  I'll leave you with the type of accomplishment that Team Trump will broadcast far and wide in the ramp up to 2020, if economic conditions remain favorable:

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