Trump has boxed himself in on the shutdown with nowhere to go

New polling indicates that President Donald Trump does not have a winning option to get out of this partial ...

Posted: Jan 15, 2019 1:38 PM
Updated: Jan 15, 2019 1:38 PM

New polling indicates that President Donald Trump does not have a winning option to get out of this partial government shutdown, and his position is deteriorating.

Let's start with the most important fact when it comes to gaming out the shutdown: the President is becoming more unpopular. His net approval rating (approval rating -- disapproval rating) in an average of polls before the shutdown was -10 points. It's now down to -14 points. That may not seem like a big drop but remember this is a president who has had among the most stable approval ratings on record.

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Now, one move the President could decide to take to help his own standing is to push harder on the shutdown. Yet, the longer the shutdown goes, and the harder Trump has pushed his position, the more Americans are blaming him for it.

In a Quinnipiac University poll taken before the shutdown, 51% of voters said they'd blame the Republicans for the shutdown to 37% who said they'd blame the Democrats. A Quinnipiac poll conducted over the last week now puts Republican blame at 56% and Democratic blame at 36%. Put another way, voters are 5 points more likely to blame Republicans and 1 point less likely to blame Democrats for the shutdown than they were before the shutdown began.

It's not hard to make the connection that Trump's personal ratings are dropping because they increasingly see him responsible for the shutdown.

To get out of the shutdown mess, Trump could declare a national emergency and could try to use this power to build a wall. The problem for Trump is that this is likely to go over even worse with the public than the shutdown.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that only 31% of Americans support the use of emergency powers to build the wall and an astounding 66% are opposed. This margin of 35 points (66% - 31%) against the use of emergency powers is significantly wider than the 24-point margin (53% - 29%) by which the same respondents in this poll said they blamed Republicans over Democrats for the shutdown.

With Americans against the shutdown and against the use of emergency powers, Trump could compromise with Democrats. The issue for Trump is that he's made politics all about his base, and, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll, they don't want him compromising.

Among Republicans who support the building of the wall, about 67% (two-thirds) believes he "should continue to demand funding for a border wall even if it extends the government shutdown". Only about 25% (one-fourth) think he compromise on the wall in order to end the shutdown.

All of this negative polling also means that the Democratic-controlled House has no reason to give Trump his wall either. If anything, Democratic leaders face their own base that doesn't want the wall (with over 80% opposition in recent ABC News/Washington Post, CNN and Quinnipiac polls). And while polling indicates Democrats may be more open to a compromise on the shutdown than Republicans, a majority of the Democratic base doesn't want congressional Democrats to compromise (as measured by Democrats opposed to the wall even it means extending the shutdown).

So basically, Trump has nowhere to go. There is no option that pleases Americans as a whole and, at the time, his base. Someone is going to be angry at him no matter what he does.

Of course, one might argue this would be worth it for Trump if more Americans were starting to agree with his idea of building the wall. That is, maybe Trump is losing the battle over the shutdown, but winning the war over the wall.

Again though, this doesn't seem to be working out in Trump's favor either.

While support for the wall did climb over 2018, it hasn't climbed over the course of the shutdown. If anything, the shutdown seems to have stunted growth of support for a wall along the US-Mexico border.

Americans remain firmly opposed to building a wall. Last month, an average of CNN and Quinnipiac polls put support for the wall at 40% and opposition 55%, a 15-point margin. Today, those same pollsters have 41% favoring the wall and 56% opposing the wall, a 15-point margin.

For a president who is now less than two years from re-election, there is no light on the horizon when it comes to the shutdown. Simply put, there are no good political options, as his dream for a wall doesn't seem any closer to a reality at this point.

Trump will eventually need to make an unpopular move and hope he isn't penalized too much for it.

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