At a certain level, Donald Trump seems to realize that the political fight over his government shutdown is not going well. The New York Times reported overnight:
President Trump has insisted that he is not going to compromise with Democrats to end the government shutdown, and that he is comfortable in his unbendable position. But privately, it’s sometimes a different story.
“We are getting crushed!” Mr. Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, after watching some recent coverage of the shutdown, according to one person familiar with the conversation.
That’s the first quote I’ve seen from the Republican about the shutdown that I’m inclined to endorse.
Earlier this week, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll found most Americans blaming Trump and his party for the shutdown, and rejecting the White House’s idea for a giant border wall. A CNN poll soon followed with very similar results.
A day later, a national Quinnipiac survey pointed in the same direction – most Americans don’t want a wall, don’t approve of the president’s shutdown strategy, and blame Republicans for the mess – which was soon followed by a Pew Research Center poll that not only found the same results, it also found that most Americans don’t want Democrats to give in to Trump’s demands.
Yesterday, a poll from PBS NewsHour, NPR, and Marist offered very similar findings, and FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver published an analysis on what the shutdown is doing to Trump’s approval rating (hint: nothing good).
And yet, despite all of this evidence, there’s apparently still some debate within the White House about the merits of the president’s political strategy.
The Wall Street Journal had an interesting report along these lines late yesterday:
Some senior officials have been aiming to make clear to the president that “this isn’t just a messaging war anymore,” and that he’s “playing with live ammunition,” according to White House officials with knowledge of the conversations.
Some top aides are concerned that the president hasn’t yet internalized the severity of 800,000 federal workers missing paychecks, one official said.
“There’s going to have to be a reality-check moment that what he signs might not be what he’s been saying he needs,” the official said. “I don’t see how this can stretch much longer without becoming disastrous for everyone.”
But other officials urged the president to maintain his resolve, and urged patience from West Wing colleagues. One supporter of Mr. Trump’s stance likened the shutdown fight to turning an aircraft carrier: It will take time. This official said Mr. Trump’s trip to the border last week, Democrats declining his invitations to talks at the White House and his tweets pointing out Democrats weren’t in Washington, D.C., over the weekend were helping in the battle for public opinion.
I don’t know what public-opinion data the president’s team is looking at, but the independent, publicly available information reinforces Trump’s suspicion that he’s “getting crushed.”