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President Donald Trump’s political team has concluded that shutting down the government hasn’t damaged his 2020 prospects — if anything, they’re convinced it’s bolstered his standing in key electoral battlegrounds.
Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale commissioned a survey taken during the final days of the shutdown that was conducted by respected GOP pollsters Neil Newhouse and Robert Blizzard. The poll, surveying 10 GOP-leaning House districts that Democrats won in the 2018 midterms, found that a plurality of voters blamed Trump for the shutdown. But a plurality of voters also supported his push for a border wall.
Trump is expected to be briefed on the new numbers on Monday evening, according to a person familiar with the plans.
The poll has been released as the president faces blowback from across the political spectrum over the five-week shutdown. The survey conflicts with other data showing that Trump’s poll numbers were damaged by the episode.
While some view internal polls skeptically, this one could embolden Trump to take a hard line in future negotiations over the wall. Trump has a pattern of latching onto polling data that confirm his views, even if they’re contradicted by other numbers.
But the poll provides a window into White House thinking as the next funding deadline approaches on Feb. 15 and heading into the 2020 campaign season. The president has said that he remains intent on building the wall — with or without congressional approval.
“Voters believe the current situation at the border represents a national security threat and a majority support building a wall or barrier,” Newhouse and Blizzard wrote in a memo outlining the results of the survey, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.
Shaping the Trump camp’s mindset is a belief that the public is on his side when it comes to immigration and border security.
In the memo, the pollsters wrote that 61 percent “support the president’s position on border security,” and that “52 percent of voters agree that ‘the current situation at the border between the United States and Mexico represents a national security threat to the US.’”
They also said that 53 percent “support ‘building a border wall or barrier to improve security between the US and Mexico.’”
It’s not all good news for the president, however. The poll found that just 49 percent of voters in the Republican-leaning districts approve of Trump’s job performance, only a point greater than the 48 percent who disapprove.
The survey of 800 registered voters was paid for by the Republican National Committee, which has been working closely with the Trump campaign. It was conducted Jan. 24 to Jan. 26 — a period that coincided with the tail end of the five-week shutdown.
Newhouse and Blizzard are prominent pollsters who work at the Washington, D.C.-based firm Public Opinion Strategies. In 2016, they worked for a super PAC supporting Jeb Bush, Trump’s rival in the Republican primary. In 2012, Newhouse served as the chief pollster for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
While the private memo shows Trump with a strong hand in these competitive House districts, other data suggest the shutdown fight took a modest but perceptible toll on the president. When the shutdown began in December, according to an average of national polls compiled by RealClearPolitics, Trump’s disapproval rating exceeded his approval mark by over 9 percentage points. As of Monday, Trump’s disapproval-to-approval deficit had widened to 13 points.
While all 10 districts surveyed in the GOP-commissioned poll are currently held by House Democrats, they are largely on Trump-friendly terrain. The president carried the 10 districts by an average of 12 percentage points in 2016.