It’s shrinking. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates that the Democrats’ edge over the Republicans in the forthcoming midterm election has dwindled among registered voters, from a 12-percent lead to 4-points. Donald Trump’s own approval ratings have edged up slightly to 40 percent, but his disapproval rating remains at a daunting 56 percent.
So is it time to start waving goodbye to the Democratic wave predicted for the fall? Actually, the poll may have a salutary effect upon Democrats, reminding them that Trump and the GOP remain a potent foe. Republicans hold a staggering 60 to 31 percent lead over Democrats among white voters who have not attended college. At the same time, far more Republican than Democratic seats are competitive races. But given the unpredictable moves that Trump can make in coming months—a quick war or successful negotiations with North Korea?—the Democrats could easily find themselves treading water rather than surfing a wave.
No doubt the auguries for Trump look bad. Former FBI director James Comey is barnstorming around the country hurling maledictions about Trump being “morally unfit” for the presidency. His charges have prompted Trump to respond with a fusillade of tweets anointing Comey the “WORST FBI director in history, by far!” GOT THAT? Comey is surely amused to have surpassed the legendary J. Edgar Hoover as the ultimate deep state bad guy, but the problem for Trump is that while he may be able to rouse the base with his truculent tweets, his behaviour brings him into bad odour with independent voters. Also he does more than anyone else to help stimulate Comey’s book sales. By far.
But let’s face it: while the Comey-Trump match is entertaining, the real action is elsewhere. It’s the women, not Russia, that may bring down El Jefe. Trump’s pulchritudinous impulses have issued in Stormy Daniels visiting a courtroom in Manhattan today to watch his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, at a hearing about the FBI’s seizure of his personal papers. Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, who is successfully going mano a mano with the Trump coterie, was asked whether he was trying to provoke Cohen. “No, not at all,” he responded. Just showing up to see that justice is done.
Writing in the New Yorker, Adam Davidson predicts, “This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth.” Davidson suggests that the sordid truth of the Trump organisation, a crime enterprise masquerading as a legitimate business, will be exposed in coming months. In Davidson’s view, Trump had “a small, sad operation, mostly run by his two oldest children and Michael Cohen, a lousy lawyer who barely keeps up the pretenses of lawyering and who now faces an avalanche of charges, from taxicab-backed bank fraud to money laundering and campaign-finance violations.”
As the bad news mounts, Trump isn’t just going on the warpath against Comey whom he regularly calls a “slimeball.” He’s also once more raising the drawbridge as he did in preventing Elliot Abrams from joining the administration in February 2017. He just forbade vice-president Mike Pence from appointing Jon Lerner, an aide to U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley who is suspected of having been a Never Trumper, from serving as his national security adviser. This could spell trouble for national security adviser John Bolton’s attempts to replace the staffers he has purged over the last week, including deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow. Bolton could soon find out that he is neither McMaster nor commander when it comes to working with Trump.
Even as his staff falls by the wayside and his former campaign associates face jail terms, however, Trump continues to stride on. As Dickens once observed of Mr. Nicodemus Dumps, “The only real comfort of his existence was to make everybody about him wretched—then he might be truly said to enjoy life.” Trump’s numbers are up slightly. His enemies are gathering. But if Trump can weather Cohen and the midterm elections, he will announce that he was right all along.