Sunday Political Brunch: Trump’s First Year Report Card—January 21, 2018

Sunday, January 21, 2018


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Mark Curtis

I am sure I am not alone in the press corps this weekend as I evaluate President Trump’s first year in office. Like the campaign itself, this has been a roller coaster ride the likes of which I have never seen. There are lots of highlights and low points so let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“The Grading Curve” – My grades are solely on the standpoint of effectiveness; they are not an endorsement or condemnation of any policy, or appointee. Most people choose to evaluate politicians as “good” or “bad,” but I find that gets too much into subjective emotion, and not enough into practical analysis. I choose to rate politicians by the standard of “effective” or “ineffective” in terms of can they get stuff done, (whether I like the policy or not). For example, I rate President Ronald Reagan as “highly effective” because he got much of his agenda done. President Jimmy Carter I rate “highly ineffective” because he had trouble getting anything done. Whether what either got done is “good” or “bad,” I leave to your own judgement.

“A Supreme Accomplishment” – President Trump’s first big success was appointing Justice Neal Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Trump may only last a four-year term, but Justice Gorsuch – if his health is good – could be making rulings from the high court thirty years from now. Yes, President Obama got “played” on his nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to this post, but as we’ve seen many times over the years, the Supreme Court appointments are highly politicized. Democrats have played games on this, too, so touché. Grade: A+

“All My Ex’s Love My Taxes” – Tax reform was truly the one and only legislative accomplishment by the Trump White House and Republican-led Congress in 2017. Look, they promised they would deliver the first major tax reform bill in three decades before Christmas, and they did. Quite frankly, it may be five years before we know the true impact, (including benefits or detriments), but they got it done; promise delivered. Plus, for now, financial markets are booming. Grade A

“Paybacks Can Be Heaven” – Legislation has an impact at the voting booth. A case in point: a lot of people voted to re-elect President Obama in 2012, because “Obamacare” was passed in 2010 (even though it wouldn’t take effect until 2014). But the point is, once you provide a benefit to millions of people, its hard to take it back. Of course, Mr. Obama suffered a stinging rebuke in 2010 when Republicans took back the House. The tax reform bill passed by President Trump in 2017, could reap huge political rewards in 2018. That’s because many people will start seeing an extra 30 to 40 dollars in each paycheck this year. Yes, many may have opposed the tax reform bill, but if they start to cash in, all bets are off. This could be a real positive Republican reelection strategy. Grade: A-

“North Korea” – North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is the provocateur here, not President Trump. Yes, the Commander in Chief has said some controversial things in the ongoing nuclear dispute with North Korea (some ill-advised; others tough as nails). U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and Defense Secretary James Mattis have been particularly forceful. The bottom line: despite North Korea’s threats, no serious nuclear missile launch has materialized. Trump called Kim Jong Un’s bluff (so far), but I believe the tough talk paid off. Grade: B+ (but this could turn at a moment’s notice).

“Tweeter in Chief” – This is a weird phenomenon. Throughout the campaign and into the first six months of the Trump administration, I - like many people – thought he should stop the daily morning tweets. I felt it was undignified, and un-presidential. On the other hand, many of the Trump faithful loved the daily blasts, especially when they put the media in the crosshairs. Now I wonder, is this the new normal for political discourse? Will every future President use Twitter like the digital “fireside chat?” Stay tuned, but for Trump it’s been a battle between rallying his troops, and offending he opposition. It cuts both ways. Grade: C

“Mixed Messages” – One of President Trump’s biggest problems has been sending mixed messages. Nowhere was that more prevalent then during the protests in Charlottesville, Virginia over statues from the Civil War era. On day one of the violence he said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides. It's been going on for a long time in our country.” Two days later after much criticism, he said, “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” The next day he reverted to his first statements. It was contradictory, inconsistent, and confusing. Grade: D+

“Immigration S**thole”- At least two U.S. Senators say the President used the vulgarity to describe African and Caribbean countries. President Trump and one Senator say he didn’t. Quite honestly, who is right is beside the point. The bottom line is the first major immigration reform bill in thirty years collapsed. No, the border wall was not part of this, but DACA and more law enforcement at the border was. This was a truly bipartisan effort, where everybody got something, but no one got all they wanted. Yes, it’s patchwork, but it was potentially a huge win, the President turned into a loss. Nothing got done. Grade F.

“Why All This Matters” – Political agendas are about momentum, and they can be held up as election season unfolds. Most of President Trump’s perceive successes in 2017 came because of Executive Orders (oddly the main GOP criticism of how President Obama ruled over two terms). How President Trump works with Congress in 2018 could determine his own legislative agenda, but could also have a profound impact on the midterm elections in November.

Mark Curtis, Ed. D, is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, and is a nationally-known Political Analyst.


Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?

Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?

Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%


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