In a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll among self-identified Republicans, Donald Trump is more popular (78 percent positive/13 percent negative) than the Republican Party itself (61 positive/16 negative).
I think I’ve been in denial. I knew he had his admirers, but I believed that a lot more than 13 percent of Republicans found him objectionable in various ways but voted for him out of party loyalty and because they had been convinced that however sub-par Trump was, Hillary Clinton would be worse. But, according to at least this poll:
Trump is also more popular — WAY more popular (among Republicans) — than the collective Republicans in the House (49 positive/21 negative) or the Senate (41/25) or Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (23/21). NBC didn’t poll on Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
Sen. John McCain — who in addition to being one of the U.S. Senate’s senior Republicans, a former Republican presidential nominee and a war hero who Trump insulted during the campaign (because he “was captured”) — actually gets a net negative popularity rating among Republicans nationally (35 positive/44 negative) in the poll, posted yesterday by Meet the Press as their daily “First Read” item.
If you are by any chance disgusted by the unwillingness of Republican office holders to distance themselves from the current incumbent when he takes positions different from the traditional Republican positions, or criticize him even when he behaves in ways that are boorish or worse, you (and I) should try to remember these numbers.
You have probably noticed that those who have criticized him or broken ranks with him have often simultaneously decided not to seek another term (such as Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake). Because of the numbers above, they felt they had to choose between their political future and their conscience (or, possibly, they had already concluded that they had no political future).
The others, to overgeneralize, are not worried about losing to a Democrat if they fail to criticize Trump. They are worried about losing a Republican primary to a pro-Trumpier alternative if they do criticize Mr. Trump. And all the smart political observers seem to agree that they are correct to worry about that.
I confess, it is difficult for me to retain my understanding of numbers like these for more than a few minutes before I slip back into an older understanding of the kind of person Republicans admire: Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and the first Republican President, Abe Lincoln. (Okay, I’m sort of joking about Lincoln, and, luckily, this poll didn’t ask about him, but you get the point.)
Perhaps it occurs to you to wonder why, if the current incumbent is so popular, why are his approval ratings the worst ever in the history of approval ratings for a president this early in his term. But of course, you know the answer: Trump’s approval rating among independents is very, very bad, and among Democrats it is close to zero. You of course expect most Democrats to hold a negative view of a Republican president (not Ike), but not this negative.
Among the full panel of poll respondents, mixing Republicans, Democrats and Independents together, Trump gets a net negative rating of 34 percent positive, 53 percent negative.
Among the full panel, the Democratic Party also gets a net negative rating, 32 positive/42 negative; the Republican Party gets an even more net negative rating 27/46; and the only entity or person who received a net positive rating from the combined Democrats, Republicans and independents in this poll is John McCain (43 positive/28 negative), which is pretty freaking amazing when you consider that McCain was nine points underwater among members of his own party.
But, as strong as that sounds, I think I get it.