President Donald Trump’s legal exposure is real and expanding almost daily, but the power of his office offers him substantial protection as long as he maintains political support above a minimum threshold.
But as conservative writer Jennifer Rubin explained Thursday, the president isn’t just facing legal perils — his vulnerability on the political front is also growing. Trump’s botched management of the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, his frantic maneuvering of troops in the Middle East along with a premature announcement of ISIS’s defeat, and Defense Secretary James Mattis’ resignation in protest have all rung alarm bells for the GOP leadership.
Meanwhile, a wildly volatile stock market mixed with the president’s wildly irresponsible tariffs raise concerns about a potential economic downturn, which would threaten his standing even with his base. And with the government shut down over Trump’s ludicrous demands for border wall funding, the idea that the federal government is being deftly managed has been exposed as a farce.
Rubin noted that polls show that the American public is largely at odds with Trump’s view of the world. Even most Republicans, for example, doubt that he’ll ever succeed in building the wall. More people trust Special Counsel Robert Mueller than trust the president. More people think there was “definitely” collusion between Trump and Russia during the campaign than think there “definitely wasn’t.” (It may depend somewhat on your definition of “collusion” — but there definitely was collusion.)
She also noted that the Associated Press found in a recent poll that 16 percent of those who say they “somewhat” support Trump actually backed Democrats in the 2018 midterms. If Democrats are able to secure the support of a solid portion of this wavering bunch in the 2020 election, Trump is sure to fail.
“The polling suggests that Trump’s opposition has hardened,” wrote Rubin. “The question for 2019 that fellow Republicans will focus intently on is whether his polling stabilizes in the high 30s/low 40s, where it has been for his entire presidency, or whether the accumulation of scandals, flubs, personnel debacles and economic turbulence pull him significantly lower. If it’s the former, and the economy remains robust, Trump will likely maintain his grip on the party and stand a good chance of renomination. That outcome is hardly a given now, however.”
She continued to explain how Trump’s remaining base of support could crumble, leading to the end of his presidency:
These scenarios make clear that the many predictions that Trump is likely to prevail in 2020, or even that he is all but guaranteed to secure the GOP nomination for a second term, are overblown. Trump may yet pull off another political upset, but there’s no sugarcoating it for him: At this point, the headwinds are against the president.