First, I’ll admit that Charlie Cook is one of my favorite political number-crunchers/analysts. That’s why I’m disappointed with Charlie’s article about the 2018 election campaign.
Charlie’s theory apparently is that President Trump’s ego will get in the way of the Republicans’ message. It’s summed up perfectly when Cook wrote “The idea that this president and this White House would not step on their own message and not cut short what should be a post-tax-bill victory lap is laughable. Look at the last two days alone—the president’s braggadocio that his nuclear button is ‘Much bigger & more powerful’; the suggestion of jail for former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin and former FBI Director James Comey; Michael Wolff’s tell-all book on the Trump White House palace intrigue and former Trump intimate Steve Bannon’s accusation of ‘treasonous’ behavior on the part of Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort; and various threats of lawsuits.”
What Cook didn’t notice is that the people who will receive the bonus checks or who received pay raises or saw their employers increase their contribution to their 401(k)s don’t care about political messaging. They care that their lives just improved during President Trump’s watch. This fall, when people start tuning into politics in earnest, people will see ad after ad after ad reminding them that every Democrat voted against the tax cuts that led these corporations to hand out bonuses or raise their pay or increase the employers’ contribution to these employees’ 401(k)s.
Yet even 39 percent still amounts to the lowest of any first-year elected president and equals his Gallup approval rating for the whole year. And SurveyMonkey reports that “over the last two weeks of 2017, President Trump’s approval rating rose from 39 to 44 percent in SurveyMonkey’s tracking, largely as a result of better marks from Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.” While up is up, anyone looking for a big boost for the president from the bill’s passage is likely to be disappointed.
I won’t say that polls are irrelevant. I will say their importance isn’t what it used to be. Polls used to shape public opinion. These days, I’d argue that social media has a greater impact on shaping opinions than polls have.
The other flaw in Cook’s thinking is that people are smart enough to notice their lives improving, whether it’s through lower electric bills, higher wages or more take-home pay.