In the days following the State of the Union address, President Donald Trump surged to 52% in Rasmussen’s Daily Presidential Tracking Poll, his highest rating in two years. Given that about 90% of press coverage of the president is negative, this is an extraordinary achievement.
Equally significant is the fact that the extremes also moved starkly. Those who strongly approve of the president rose 6% to 37%, while the people who strongly disapprove fell 11% to 37%. Trump clearly moved the needle with his speech, which received overwhelming approval by the viewers.
There is probably more to this shift in perception than some well-crafted words. In the preceding weeks, the contrast between the president and the Democrats became apparent to everyone: Trump showed a willingness to negotiate and make reasonable offers. The Democrats by contrast appeared inflexible and spiteful like sullen children. Amazingly, Trump looked like the only adult in the room.
Trump also managed to lure them into a trap of epically bad optics.
When the SOTU finally took place, people saw an optimistic, charming, and cooperative president. The Democrats in Congress, on the other hand, looked like bad-tempered teenagers, who refused to applaud for record-low unemployment for blacks and Hispanics.
Trump also managed to lure them into a trap of epically bad optics. The only ones Dems did applaud were themselves, thereby exposing their true priorities.
He also took advantage of the recent debacle surrounding late-term abortions in New York. Most Americans, including Democrats, balked at the morbid legislation. When Trump encouraged Congress to ban third-trimester abortions, a shocked America could with their own eyes see that the New York law was no accident but morally approved by most Democratic representatives.
In the days following the SOTU, Americans got to see even more Democrat craziness. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) released her Green New Deal, which contained many outlandish statements and revealed a level of ignorance that scared many voters.
When Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) finally announced her presidential candidacy, voters got a visual of Trump opposition in 2020. It is far easier to judge a candidate when posed against flesh-and-blood alternatives. Warren, by comparison, makes the president look better .
We also should not underestimate the herd effect: In the days after the SOTU, it became acceptable to say nice things about Trump. The polls showed that most approved of his speech, and that may have translated into improved perception. Maybe he is not as bad as they thought?
The current plan to fund the government and avoid further shutdown does not include the full amount requested for the border wall. It looks like he has a few aces up his sleeve still, however. Rather than allow the government to shut down again, the president has opted to sign the bill into law and declare a state of emergency to build the wall instead.
Furthermore, his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un in Vietnam at the end of February sets the stage for what could turn out to be a major foreign policy win for the president. If he can create peace with a mad dictator, more people may start to ask why the Democrats are unable to negotiate reasonably.
One thing we can say for sure: Trump is a fighter who can gain achievements under hostile conditions.