Presidential approval polls show Donald Trump with ratings hovering around the 40 percent mark. According to the experts, only about 40 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing in the White House.
And yet, if the election for president was held today between Trump and Hillary Clinton, Trump would not only win again, but he would also win the popular vote.
Those results came from an ABC News-Washington Post poll a couple of weeks ago which, like others, put Trump’s job performance rating at just 42 percent, with 53 percent disapproving.
But according to the same poll, a substantial number of people who voted for Hillary now say they would vote for a third-party candidate if they could do it again, giving Trump not only an Electoral College win, but a popular vote victory, too.
The poll serves to demonstrate just how useless presidential job approval polls really are, at least when it comes to determining whether someone could be re-elected. Job approval polls do not determine someone’s approval or popularity against someone else’s. They present one individual as their subject, and then ask a series of questions about whether respondents approve or disapprove, item by item.
More importantly, presidential job approval ratings are a national snapshot, not a state-by-state survey. As we know, presidential elections are not national elections, they are state-by-state elections.
Smart campaign strategists have always recognized that even more important that the breadth of a candidate’s popularity is the depth of it. It’s come to be called the “enthusiasm gap,” and in that contest, Trump led Clinton wire to wire in the 2016 election.
What you can expect from time to time in the coming months and years are polls presenting a hypothetical matchup between Trump and an unnamed opponent, i.e., “If the 2020 election was held today, would you vote for Donald Trump or the Democratic Party nominee?” Trump will almost certainly always lose those polls by a wide margin.
But once you start inserting an actual name into the polling, it changes everything. Rather than “the Democratic Party nominee,” insert Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden or any other Democrat of your choice, and Trump will either win the poll or it will be close. That’s because all actual candidates carry negative attributes in the minds of voters, whereas only diehard Republican respondents will respond negatively just to the phrase “the Democratic Party nominee.”
Donald Trump’s base, along with his approval rating, may forever be in the 39-42 percent range, but that – coupled with two or three more points (votes) from the dreaded “undecideds” – would be more than enough for him to be re-elected in 2020 once there is an actual Democratic Party nominee as well as the usual plethora of third-party candidates on the ballot.
So the daily or weekly job approval reports are exercises in futility, all sound and fury signifying nothing.
Of course, all this assumes that if Trump runs again, he will be the Republican nominee, which won’t happen if Ohio Gov. John Kasich has anything to say about it. You remember Kasich’s 2016 campaign for president? Of course you do.
At the risk of dredging up bad memories of the embarrassing spectacle of Kasich’s “The Man Who Just Wouldn’t Go Away” bid for the White House – after winning one state in the primaries (his own) – our governor finally got out in early May of last year.
At the time, he said, “I have always said that the Lord has a purpose for me as he has for everyone. And as I suspend my campaign today, I have renewed faith, deeper faith, that the Lord will show me the way forward, and fulfill the purpose of my life.”
As is the case with most of us when we claim to follow God’s will, God seems to want exactly what John Kasich wants. It appears that the Lord might be pointing Kasich right back to where Kasich himself thinks he should be. What a happy coincidence.
In a recent interview with CNN, Kasich at first downplayed the notion of another run, but when Anderson Cooper pressed, “You wouldn’t close the door on it?” Kasich responded, “How do you close the door on anything? … if I see something that I need to do to help my country that I really believe that I have to do, you know, I would think that I would probably do it.”
Kasich’s new book – because we need a new book from Kasich – is entitled, “Two Paths: America Divided or United.” You figure it out.
But after Kasich’s ego is assuaged by one more round of media attention, state-by-state town hall gatherings and another swan song along the lines of “The Lord Has a Path For Me,” maybe in a different key, and after he realizes that the Lord really wants him to become a political pundit on television or a lobbyist or an advisor for a big investment firm, Trump will again be the nominee.
And when that happens, critics and pundits will endlessly point to Trump’s low approval ratings and say something like, “No president has ever been re-elected with approval ratings this low.” And then he will be re-elected, and for the national media, the Democratic Party and the Republican establishment, it will be cryin’ time again.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.