Jennifer Rubin: Maybe Trump’s incredible poll drop is real

(Alex Brandon | The Associated Press) President Donald Trump speaks during a discussion for drug-free communities support programs, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018, in Washington.

When the Washington Post/ABC News poll released last week showed President Donald Trump’s approval down to 36 percent, we (and others) cautioned that more polling over a longer period of time would tell if this was simply a blip or if Trump’s myriad scandals — plus his boorish conduct regarding national hero Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who died last month — had finally taken a toll. (Not to mention that his trade wars are also causing pain in rural America.)

We now have one more poll:

"Just 36% say they approve of the job President Trump is doing, a 5-point drop from last month, according to the latest IBD/TIPP poll. Fifty six percent disapprove of Trump's job performance, up from 53% the month before. ...

"Trump lost significant ground on job approval with Republicans this month, which fell from 83% last month to 76% this month. Among independents, Trump's approval dropped 4 points to 33%. Democratic approval has never been above the low single digits.

"He also saw a big drop in support from men (it went from 49% last month to 40% today)."

Bolstering the theory that the trade wars are a turnoff, Trump's numbers "among rural dwellers plunged 15 points - going from 60% to 45%."

Again, even two polls do not make a trend, but Republicans surely have reason for alarm. As with a slew of other pols, the IBD/TIPP poll shows a big lead for Democrats in generic polling. ("The current poll shows Democrats with an 11-point advantage. Fifty percent now say they'd prefer Congress controlled by Democrats, with 39% favoring Republican control.")

As these pollsters note, this comes during a time when the economy is humming along. No wonder Republicans spinning on the Sunday shows want candidates to tell voters they never had it so good.

The problem for Republicans is fourfold. First, if the economy goes into recession, the bottom may well fall out for Trump and the GOP. Second, due to wage stagnation many voters don't feel as though they are doing better. In fact, they're not, given that wage increases haven't kept up with inflation and growth. (Trump's plans to keep chiseling away at the working and middle classes while handing out capital-gains tax cuts to the rich isn't helping.)

Third, the sheer length of the recovery, now entering its 10th year and covering two presidents, ironically leads voters to take for granted the status quo. (It’s not news, as they say, when you have another day when many people didn’t lose their jobs.) Finally, the nonstop scandals, including the conviction of Paul Manafort and a plea deal for W. Samuel Patten, may be taking a toll on Trump’s support. As more criminal conduct is established (by plea or conviction), Trump’s denials seem less credible, if not downright weird.

Meanwhile, Republicans are getting out-raised ("So far in 2018," NBC News reports, "Democratic House candidates have raised $620 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. That's $150 million more than the $470 million that Republican House candidates have raised - almost a one-third higher") and out-recruited ("There are only four congressional districts where Democrats won't have a candidate on the ballot this fall, according to Ballotpedia. That's compared to 39 districts where Republicans aren't running a candidate").

In about nine weeks, the guessing game will end and the damage survey for Republicans will begin. At that point, they’ll need to decide if Trump is leading the party to ruin and even bigger losses in 2020.

Jennifer Rubin | The Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion from a center-right perspective for The Washington Post.