Trump Reconnects With Loyal Base as Democrats Mull Latest Defeat
So where, you may ask, is President Donald Trump most comfortable these days?
Well in his previous life as a real estate mogul, you might have guessed he was most at home safely ensconced in Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan, maybe tucking into one of those with well-done steaks with ketchup on the side.
But now as president? How about Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Trump seemed very much at ease during his campaignlike rally in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday.
“It is always terrific to be able to leave that Washington swamp and spend time with the truly hard working people,” Trump told the crowd. “We call them American patriots. Amazing people.”
Loyal supporters, yet weak polls
Trump’s happy return to his base is understandable given his standing in most public opinion polls.
Five months after taking office, the president’s approval rating hovers near 40 percent, a low mark for a president this early in his term. But numerous surveys also suggest that for the most part, Trump’s core supporters, like those who turned out in Cedar Rapids this week, are hanging with him, and the president was appreciative.
“We have made a journey together like no other, ever, in the history of this country,” Trump said. “We are straightening out through common sense and through a good heart, we are straightening out our country. We are straightening out our country.”
Trump’s rally came the day after Karen Handel gave the president and Republicans in general a boost with her special election victory in Georgia, a race Democrats thought they could win.
Trump boasted to the crowd about “the incredible progress” his administration has already made and once again put the media in his crosshairs.
“These people are being driven crazy. Crazy. I mean they have phony witch hunts going against me. They have everything going. And you know what, all we do is win, win, win.”
Democrats question strategy
Handel’s victory in Georgia put some Democrats in a funk.
Since Trump became president, Republicans have won four of five special congressional elections. And even though Democrats have lost by smaller margins in what are usually Republican-leaning districts, many have expressed disappointment that a strategy that relies heavily on demonizing Trump does not seem to be working.
“There is tremendous unrest out there and although Democrats did not win today, 2018 is a completely different story,” Representative Joe Crowley of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said.
But others vowed to keep the focus on Trump.
“Today in the White House we have perhaps the worst and most dangerous president in the history of our country,” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said.
Some Democrats believe it is time for a younger generation of Democratic leaders to take over.
“We are a party that stands up for working families and the middle class,” Massachusetts Representative Seth Moulton told the Associated Press. “Yet many of them are not voting for us. So it’s time for change.”
The Democratic losses in special House races despite Trump’s weakness in the polls has sparked some soul-searching.
“I think that there is this larger quandary that the Democratic Party has in terms of it is trying to figure out how to reconcile its centrist and progressive bases,” Emory University analyst Andra Gillespie said. She expects “some really tough conversations” within the party over the next several months.
WATCH: Trump reconnects with his base
For their part, many Republicans are hoping that their special election victories this week in Georgia and South Carolina will help to refocus national attention on their congressional agenda, including a health care overhaul and tax reform.
But the president himself may have gotten in the way of that this week when he settled the question of whether there were any White House tape recordings of his meetings with former FBI Director James Comey.
Trump’s tweet that there were no recordings came on the same day as Senate Republicans made public their health care reform proposal, complicating what they hoped would be a focused rollout of their plan.
The president wants to move past the Russia probe, but it is proving to be difficult.
“I do think it is hard when there is the drip, drip, drip of news against you to stop that,” John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington said. “And so finding some other things to talk about and changes of staff, I think those are things that might help. But this is a serious matter at this point and they will have to deal with this for a while.”