- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 24, 2017

President Trump’s job approval numbers have been on the upswing in recent weeks, climbing above 40 percent in most polls since he struck a deal with Capitol Hill Democrats to raise the debt limit and rush emergency funds to hurricane victims.

The president’s handling of hurricane responses boosted his ratings, but pollsters said Americans also were happy to see something finally get done in Washington.

His job approval rating hit 41 percent Sunday in the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls. That was up a couple of points from the 39 percent average just before he made the deal with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

“It has a lot to do with success,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll. “It is the total picture of what he was able to do by reaching across the aisle, for which he was criticized by some and applauded by others.”

Indeed, Mr. Trump’s cozying-up with “Chuck and Nancy” did rankle Republican lawmakers — but not so much Republican voters.

About 84 percent of Republican voters approved of the president’s job performance last week in an Economist/YouGov poll, including 48 percent who said they “strongly approve.”

It was a mirror image for Democrats, though, with 84 percent disapproving and an overwhelming 70 percent of those saying they “strongly disapprove.”

Aware that voters are impatient for progress, Mr. Trump keeps reminding them that he is making headway even if the big-ticket items such as tax reform and repealing Obamacare remain stuck in Congress.

“We don’t want to lose because we have a great agenda. And, by the way, we’re doing a lot of work, we’re getting a lot of things done. They hate to admit it,” Mr. Trump said a campaign rally Friday in Huntsville, Alabama, for Sen. Luther Strange in a Republican runoff election.

Even as Mr. Trump made gains while reaching across the aisle, he opened up new fissures with voters by going to war with the NFL and NBA over athletes kneeling during the national anthem.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired!’” Mr. Trump said at the Huntsville rally.

Two days of back-and-forth have since ensued. Some of America’s most famous athletes, with some of its richest men (the team owners), and with some of the most beloved institutions with the Republican base (the pro-sports leagues).

Mr. Trump’s approval rating remains shy of the magic 50 percent mark. He is well below President Obama’s mid-50s ratings at this point in his first term.

But Mr. Trump’s numbers had been trending in a positive direction since he reached across the aisle.

The post-deal bump accelerated a broader upward trend after Mr. Trump’s score bottomed out at 37.4 percent in the Real Clear Politics polling average Aug. 14, following uproar over his response to the deadly racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Heading into this week, Mr. Trump was up 4 points in the Reuters/Ipsos poll to 39 percent, 2 points in the CNN poll to 40 percent, 2 points in the Economist/YouGov poll to 43 percent and 4 points in the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll to 43 percent.

Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin said he has seen private surveys showing bigger jumps in support, putting Mr. Trump in the mid- to high 40s. He said many mainstream media polls tilt Democrat in their samples and understate Mr. Trump’s approval rating.

“People want to get stuff done. And also there is no question that the way he handled the hurricanes clearly helped him,” said Mr. McLaughlin, whose New York-based firm has worked for the Trump campaign.

The overwhelming approval of Mr. Trump’s response to the hurricanes, which included the deal to quickly pass federal disaster funds tied to the debt limit increase and short-term funding to keep the government open, was reflected in the polls.

The CNN survey that gave the president an overall job approval rating of 40 percent also showed a 64 percent approval rating for his handling of the hurricane disasters. Just 25 percent in the poll disapproved of his handling of the hurricane responses.

It was his highest approval rating on any issue, exceeding the economy (45 percent), North Korea (41 percent) and health care (31 percent), according to the CNN survey.

Mr. McLaughlin said the more Mr. Trump racks up wins on other issues, the higher all the numbers will go.

“He won the election because his agenda was a pretty darn popular agenda, which is what people don’t realize. When you look at the exit polls, he had a significant advantage over Hillary Clinton with the people who actually voted. Whether it was on jobs or national security and bringing change, that’s what they are looking for, that’s what they wanted,” he said.

He added, “If they can get the tax cuts passed and they can get something done on health care, you will really see his numbers spike.”

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