- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2017

The only support President Donald Trump has in Washington, D.C. is from his voters.

And they’re not about to turn on him.

As CNN’s David Gergen laments, it’s the “worst hundred days we’ve ever seen in a president;” Vanity Fair scribes “The Trump presidency is already a joke;” and political pundits breathlessly report on Mr. Trump’s stunningly low Gallup poll numbers (“Everyone he deals with is going to be less likely to do what he wants,” Bloomberg’s Jonathan Bernstein predicted of Mr. Trump’s 36 percent approval) — one thing holds true: Mr. Trump’s voters are still with him. And that makes him more powerful than Washington elites would like to admit.

How do I know?

Well, let’s look at the anecdotal evidence first.

The mainstream media — or Trump opposition party as they’re more aptly called — want nothing more than to report news of how Mr. Trump is losing his base. How his wiretapping lies, the healthcare failure, and alleged Russia connections have turned off his core supporters. That the once “deplorables” have now come to their senses.

But they haven’t been able to find one Trump voter to testify to this — much less enough evidence to prove a trend — and you know they’re searching. Instead, what we’re seeing is confirmation that Mr. Trump’s voters are still with him — and even like what he is doing.

“He’s ruffling every feather in Washington that he can ruffle. These guys are scrambling. So: yeah! I like it. I think it’s a good thing. I want to see them jump around a little bit,” James Cassidy, 58, told the Toronto Star this week.

Mr. Cassidy — a Trump supporter in Ohio — understood former President Barack Obama didn’t personally scale Trump Tower and plant wiretaps inside Mr. Trump’s office, and he didn’t take offense that Mr. Trump said so.

The Star found supporters in two cities in Ohio where Mr. Trump won 60 percent of the vote were equally nonplussed about his wiretap tweet (which has Washington pundits kvetching). The Star concluded: “Donald Trump supporters in hardscrabble Ohio have finally figured out that he is lying — a lot. Truth is, they don’t care.”

Salena Zito, a New York Post columnist found similar results when she ventured out to Ohio — that Mr. Trump’s voters are generally pleased with him thus far.

“I understood who I was voting for. I understood that he is loose with the truth. I wanted someone who was not a politician, and I am very satisfied with how he has conducted business in Washington when it comes to getting things done,” Don Brick, a Trump voter — who previously supported Mr. Obama — told her.

In terms of the healthcare debacle, The Wall Street Journal found this week that a pool of ambivalent Trump supporters — the people the paper identified as those who voted for Mr. Trump but had concerns about his temperament — were unmoved. It “hasn’t rattled their support for him, given the strength of his appeal as an outsider determined to transform the status quo.”

John Brickner, a Republican in Wilber, Neb., told the Journal he placed the healthcare defeat at the feet of House Speaker Paul Ryan.

“I’d blame Ryan more than Trump on this,” Mr. Brickner said. “Paul Ryan is a good leader, but he should have included more people in putting that law together.”

Now, let’s move on to the statistical data.

Mr. Trump’s support may be at an all-time low in Gallup polling, but that erosion is happening in the suburban and city areas among Democrats and independents who lean left. In rural America — where Mr. Trump won — he receives as high as a 59 percent approval rating, according to a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

Moreover, Mr. Trump is still tracking well on specific issues. In the most recent Reuters/Ipsos survey, just over half of Americans approve of the way he is handling both employment and jobs, and the economy.

In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, 57 percent of Republicans say Mr. Trump is a “very strong” leader and 74 percent are “optimistic” about the future — a third of independents are too.

Yes, there are some outliers. The most recent Quinnipiac poll found Mr. Trump was losing some support among both Republicans and white men, and was underwater in his handling of the economy, terrorism, foreign policy, federal budget and immigration. But one poll does not a trend make. Prior Quinnipiac surveys showed optimism was on the rise.

And why shouldn’t it be?

Mr. Trump has taken on illegal immigration. Undocumented border crossings are down 40 percent in his first month. He’s cracking down on sanctuary cities — where only 35 percent of Americans say they’d like to live — to restore law and order to Middle America.

The stock market has reached record highs, and unemployment is shrinking, with manufacturing job creation at its fastest pace since late 2014. Mr. Trump has gone on a deregulation binge, axing Obama-era rules, with the promise of creating more economic growth.

Yes, healthcare will need to be tackled, but if infrastructure spending and tax cuts can be delivered, then the Trump voter won’t fret. For Mr. Trump ran and won on the populist message of the economy and jobs, not repeal and replace.

For some in Washington, Mr. Trump may appear to be weak. But they’re wrong. In rural America, evidence is proving Mr. Trump is as strong as ever.

Just as they underestimated him in the general, they’re doing it again. And as Mr. Trump has proven, he knows the art of the comeback.

• Kelly Riddell is a columnist for The Washington Times.

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