- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2017

Conservative leaders aren’t jumping off the Trump Train that they say is moving the country in the right direction, despite President Trump’s inability to get anything done in Congress.

Mr. Trump received a free pass for the faltering health care bill in the Senate, which many conservatives balked at as not a complete repeal of Obamacare, because the president is keeping other top promises such as putting a solid conservative justice on the Supreme Court and rolling back federal regulations.

“President Trump is not responsible for what has happened in Congress so far on health care. The House and Senate are in Republican hands,” said Gary Bauer, president of American Values and a 2000 Republican presidential-primary candidate.

For one thing, he said, Mr. Trump was honoring his pledge to be a pro-life leader.

“On the larger picture of how he’s done, I think he has hit a number of home runs,” said Mr. Bauer. “He’s tireless. Whether they get it or not, every day he is tutoring Republicans on how to take a punch and keep on fighting.”

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots, said the jury is still out on the president’s legislative agenda — but what he has done with executive orders and nominations hits the conservative mark.

“We would give him an A on the things he’s done so far,” she said

She credits the president with the successful nomination of Neil M. Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, reduced illegal crossing at the southern border, expanding U.S. energy production and reining in federal regulations.

“We are optimistic that he’s going to repeal and replace Obamacare and reform the tax code in a way that will grow the economy,” Ms. Martin said.

Still, jitters about the repeal-and-replace bill added to a stock market plunge Thursday that was led by a sell-off in tech stocks. In the largest single-day decline in six weeks, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 167 points, or 0.8 percent, to 21,287, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 90 points, or 1.4 percent, to 6,144.

Mr. Trump has consistently pointed to the Wall Street rally since he took office as a sign of an economic rebirth he spawned.

The president also is taking it on the chin in the polls.

Mr. Trump’s approval rating remained upside down in the Marist Poll released Thursday, with just 37 percent of Americans saying they approve of the job he’s doing and 51 percent disapproving. Twice the number of Americans — 40 percent — said they strongly disapprove of Mr. Trump’s performance as president than the 20 percent who strongly approve.

“The problem facing President Trump is two-fold,” said Lee M. Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Not only is his job performance rating low, but there are troublesome signs for him in the future. An increasing number of independents think the nation is headed in the wrong direction, believe his decisions have weakened the economy, and his actions have diminished the role of the U.S. on the world stage.”

A Suffolk University/USA Today Poll showed a similar erosion of support for Mr. Trump and the GOP, with nearly 75 percent saying they are either uneasy or alarmed about what’s going on in Washington.

Mr. Trump’s unfavorable rating ticked up 8 points to 55 percent since the same poll in March. About 40 percent of Americans had a favorable view of the president, compared to 45 percent who said that in March.

The numbers didn’t impress Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform. “He got elected with lousy numbers. He can govern with lousy numbers,” he said.

Mr. Norquist said the low poll numbers could be attributed, in part, to Mr. Trump’s sometimes erratic behavior. But more likely the polls reflected how “the press is completely at war with him.”

He noted that Ronald Reagan suffered a similar, though less severe, negative treatment by the news media and eventually saw his poll numbers fall.

Reagan’s approval rating approached 70 percent in his first months in office in 1981 but fell below 40 percent in early 1983, according to Gallup.

Mr. Norquist also was optimistic that Mr. Trump would prevail on health care and tax reform.

“Presidents don’t pass laws. He’s only got 52 votes in the Senate, and they are not all Reagan Republicans,” he said. “I believe you will see a health care bill and a tax bill that has 75 percent of everything I might want or can imagine would pass. It’s not 100 percent, but both of those would be huge steps forward.”

Mr. Trump’s base is sticking with him, too.

“I haven’t seen him taking most of the fire,” said Christopher Reid, who co-hosts a conservative talk show on the Yellowhammer News website in Alabama, adding that his callers are directing their anger at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and, to a lesser extent, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

“The people are frustrated with leadership. They are frustrated with Republicans,” said Mr. Reid. “We have people calling in saying, ‘They had seven years to do this. They didn’t do it. Why didn’t they figure this out when they were trying to get into power?’ I think that’s the common theme.”


• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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