The Corner

Politics & Policy

Can Trump Turn Both Ways on a Dime?

Alexandra notes that, per CBS, Trump’s speech last night seems to have been a hit:

A full 97 percent of Republicans approved of the speech, as did 72 percent of independents and 43 percent of Democrats. The positive rating from independents is a good indication that Trump’s address succeeded in striking a bipartisan, unifying tone. Sixty-five percent of viewers said the speech made them feel proud . . .

This, I think, is remarkable. Since he became president, Trump’s approval numbers have been poor, and his opponents have been energized. Moreover, the one major piece of legislation he’s signed — an overhaul of the tax system — has polled terribly. Despite all this, the president didn’t seem to have too far to travel last night in order to achieve good notices. Given the ongoing Russia investigation; the sharp criticism he receives — both warranted and unwarranted; and his peculiar penchant for blowing himself up over trivialities, I’d have expected to see these sorts of numbers only after a long series of uninterrupted good steps. Instead, he seemed capable of turning on a dime. Is that normal? One wonders what sort of sustained rehab Nancy Pelosi would have to undergo before almost half of the Republican party approved of a major speech.

Perhaps this was a fluke. But if it was not, there are obvious implications here — including for 2020. One is that the majority of the American public does not seem to have written Trump off as an irredeemable mistake, or to have stopped listening to the content of his appeals. Another — and it’s related to the first — is that voters seems to be engaging in at least some compartmentalization. For a while now, it has been correctly observed that whatever good Trump does himself on a Monday, he’ll have undone by Wednesday afternoon. But could it also be true that whatever bad he did on the Wednesday can itself be undone by the Friday? Is he an Etch-a-Sketch? 

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