There’s anecdotal evidence, and then there’s data.
Anecdotal evidence would be Donald’s Trump latest political rally, held Thursday night in Indiana, which was just as boisterous and as well-attended as any in the series. If you’re looking for proof that the Trump magic still works -- and both personally and politically, Trump very much needs that reassurance -- you could certainly find it in anecdotal terms at the Ford Center in Evansville.
Data, on the other hand, tell a different story. As we head into the Labor Day weekend, with the midterms barely two months away, let’s take a look at what three recent polls might be trying to tell us.
Washington Post/ABC News
Trump’s job approval rating among registered voters fell to 38 percent. Sixty-three percent of Americans now say they support Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation; just 29 percent say they oppose it. A majority of 53 percent say that Trump has already committed obstruction of justice in trying to undermine that probe; just 35 percent say he has not.
Fifty-nine percent of Americans tell Fox that they approve of Mueller’s investigation, an 11-point jump over a month ago; 59 percent also say it is at least somewhat likely that Mueller will uncover proof that Trump has committed criminal or impeachable offenses.*
Fifty-five percent say they have some or a lot of confidence in the Mueller investigation; 33 percent say they have little or no confidence in that probe. Voters were also asked how much trust they placed in Trump’s denial of collusion with Russia. Just 36 percent said they had some or a lot of confidence in Trump’s repeated claims of no collusion; 59 percent have little to no trust in those denials.
Sixty-three percent of Americans -- including 76 percent of independents -- told USA Today pollsters that Trump should agree to be interviewed by Mueller. Just 27 percent say they back Trump’s refusal to do so, and among independent voters, that number falls to just 16 percent.
So what does all that tell us?
For the past 15 to 18 months, we have experienced an all-out, concerted and at times bizarre effort by the Trump White House and congressional Republicans to undermine public support and confidence in the Mueller investigation. We’ve witnessed a barrage of tweets, repeated and groundless conspiracy theories and bitter attacks on the FBI and Justice Department, both of which are led by people whom Trump himself appointed. That campaign has been assisted, amplified and in many cases led by his defenders in conservative media, most notably Fox News.
As Rudy Giuliani has repeatedly acknowledged, they believe that this battle must be fought and won in the court of public opinion, rather than a court of law. They have tried to plant the idea that this is an illegitimate witch hunt that Trump, as president, has the authority and right to terminate, and that any findings produced by Mueller and his “gang of 17 Angry Democrats” must be dismissed before we even know what they are.
However, the data cited above tell us that effort to seed doubt has produced a very meager harvest, and may be having the opposite effect. More than ever, the American people want to know the truth, whatever that truth might be, and by roughly a two-to-one margin, they trust Mueller to produce it. Try as he might, Trump has not been able to create the political space that he would need to abort the Mueller probe, to fire Rod Rosenstein or even to refuse to testify. (The “perjury trap” argument has fallen flat.)
The American people are not in the mood, and any effort to take such steps in the months ahead would accelerate rather than halt the slide toward Trump’s impeachment.
* These polls are also loaded with bad news for Republicans on other fronts. According to Fox, for example, Democratic candidates for Congress enjoy an 11-point advantage on the so-called generic ballot; among independent voters, Democratic candidates enjoy a 16-point advantage.
And when asked by Fox News whether “it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have affordable health care,” 63 percent said yes; 30 percent said no.