Early Returns

Nowhere to Go But Up (Right?)

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

on February 27, 2017 in Brea, California.

Photographer: Justin Sullivan

Donald Trump's approval ratings have dropped again, to a new low of right around 40 percent, according to polling averages through Thursday. That's down about 3 percentage points over the last two weeks, erasing Trump's modest April upturn. 

But there's good news for Trump! Well, sort of. And maybe. He's been the least popular president (among those in the polling era) at this point in his term since Day 1, but he has a good chance to shake that label if the current slump doesn't continue. Using FiveThirtyEight's estimates, Trump is currently at 39.5 percent approval 119 days after taking office. But at this point in 1993, Bill Clinton's approval was plummeting on the way to a first-year low of 36.8 percent at the 132-day mark. Clinton didn't stay there for long, recovering to at least 40 percent about a month later and staying there for the rest of his first year. But it does give Trump something to shoot for, I guess.

If he slumps below that Clinton low point, the only other target for Trump -- barring a significant rally -- is Gerald Ford. The only president never elected to national office fell to 39.9 percent approval 125 days after his presidency began in August 1974 and didn't recover to 40 until late in his first year. His first-year low was 34.8 from Day 159 through Day 175 (with fewer polls back then, the FiveThirtyEight system finds more plateaus). 

That's all just for fun, for trivia, and for whatever bragging rights are involved. But my guess is that the current 40 percent approval line Trump is straddling is pretty close to where other Republicans begin getting interested in visiting the Iowa State Fair and vacationing in New Hampshire. Yes, Trump is still quite popular within his party -- the Huffington Post estimates he's still at 82 percent approval among all adult Republicans. But that hardly guarantees they would support him in primaries and caucuses against some other well-regarded Republican. There is, of course, a long way to go and no way to predict whether he'll become more or less popular over time; one piece of good news Trump can point to is that April rally does appear to have been real, proving that the miserable current survey results can theoretically be reversed. 

1. Andrew Rudalevige at the Monkey Cage on Watergate, Richard Nixon and Donald Trump.

2. Keith E. Whittington at Mischiefs of Faction on using the 25th Amendment and the very first (judicial) impeachment. 

3. Good update from Josh Putnam on the 2020 presidential nomination calendar

4. John Holbein has new evidence that preregistration for those not yet 18 is successful at increasing voter participation. Of course, even better would (presumably) be automatic registration for everyone (and, in my view, a lower voting age). 

5. Thomas Edsall on incentives for congressional Republicans

6. And my Bloomberg View colleague Megan McArdle makes what I think is the best case for using the 25th Amendment to remove Trump barring a medical diagnosis: It might be appropriate, but only if it becomes essentially a consensus position that the president is unable to perform the responsibilities of his office. Even then, the 25th would still present a lot of challenges if Trump contested it (as he presumably would), but I'd agree that at that point it wouldn't necessarily be inherently bad for democracy. Mind you, I think the chances of a consensus forming that the president is impaired are small indeed. And otherwise, impeachment is the only available constitutional remedy. 

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