The question for the White House is not who’s to blame for the partial government shutdown but rather who will voters blame for weak border security in 2020.
President Trump is convinced that Democrats will pay a hefty price with voters for opposing his border security plan, and he vowed Tuesday to never “cave” in the shutdown fight.
Democrats remain just as adamant that they are winning the showdown, with polls confirming that most Americans pin the blame on Mr. Trump for the shutdown, now in its fifth week.
Jim McLaughlin, a GOP pollster closely allied with the White House, said congressional Democrats have miscalculated.
“They think the shutdown helps them. They think leaving the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] kids out there helps them,” he said. “But that’s just not where mainstream America is right now.”
The divergent views about the blame game have kept both sides from backing down.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said the shutdown was “a stupid thing” that Mr. Trump did.
“There is no doubt he shut it down. He took credit for it, said, ‘I’m going to shut it down.’ And he said, ‘A good shutdown may be good for the country.’ He was dead, flat wrong,” he said on Fox News’ “Your World with Neil Cavuto.”
Polls consistently show Americans want border security, even if most oppose a “wall” that was the early focus for Mr. Trump.
The president has backed away from the wall in favor of a steel slat fence or barrier already in use along stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border. However, Mr. Trump muddies the debate by continuing to call it a wall.
Although most Americans oppose a border wall, 54 percent think a “security crisis” exists at the border, and 68 percent think it is a “humanitarian crisis,” according to a Quinnipiac University poll last week.
And 53 percent of likely 2020 voters think it is better for the U.S. to tightly control who comes into the country, compared to 39 percent who want borders open to anyone who isn’t a terrorist or a criminal, a Rasmussen Reports survey found last week.
However, the effects of the shutdown extend beyond the border security issue.
The White House economic team estimated the shutdown each week shaves 0.1 percentage points from economic growth. As the damage adds up, it threatens to undermine the economic boom that was supposed to be Mr. Trump’s chief argument for re-election in 2020.
Democrats insist they are not against border security, just Mr. Trump’s wall, which they dismiss as expensive and ineffective.
Bucking Mr. Trump’s deal to combine government funding with $5.7 billion for a border fence and deportation amnesty for 1 million illegal immigrant “Dreamers” and certain refugees in the country under humanitarian Temporary Protected Status, Democrats demand he open the government first and negotiate border security later.
The Senate is set to vote Thursday on the deal and a separate bill from Democrats that would reopen the government without money for a border barrier.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer reminded voters that Mr. Trump said he would be “proud” to shut down the government, keeping the focus on 800,000 federal workers who will miss a second paycheck Friday.
“The American people know that President Trump is responsible for the shutdown, and they have learned that [Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] is a co-conspirator in the shutdown,” he said on the Senate floor.
Mr. Trump hammered his border security message in a tweet.
“Without a Wall our Country can never have Border or National Security. With a powerful Wall or Steel Barrier, Crime Rates (and Drugs) will go substantially down all over the U.S. The Dems know this but want to play political games. Must finally be done correctly. No Cave!” he wrote.