Five Things Trump Can Do to Boost Sagging Public Approval

White House insiders and observers agree president can lift numbers by ignoring critics, focusing on promises

by Jim Stinson | Updated 03 Aug 2017 at 9:06 AM

President Donald Trump’s approval rating hit a record low of 38 percent on Wednesday, the lowest of his young presidency.

The low rating was especially noteworthy because it came from Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports. The polling firm’s numbers tend to be better for Republicans because it polls likely voters, not just U.S. adults at large.

The ratings indicate that an erosion in Trump’s popularity has occurred not just among average voters, but in the Republican base. Adrian Gray, President George W. Bush’s polling director, noted Trump’s strong numbers among Republicans and conservatives are beginning to dip.

A senior White House official told LifeZette on Wednesday morning that the best thing for President Trump to do is move ahead on his campaign promises. But that's been tricky.

The Republican Congress has delivered only a handful of legislative victories to Trump — none of them major, and none of them the highly sought accomplishments of repealing Obamacare or reforming taxes.

Trump's low approval ratings are all the more curious given that the Dow Jones industrial average has broken 22,000, indicating high confidence in Trump's economic agenda. Unemployment is low. Businesses are hiring more people. So what could Trump do to stop the falling poll numbers? We asked several pundits.

The Economy, Folks
"The easy solution for Trump is jobs," said Dan Gainor, vice president of business and culture at the Media Research Center, in an email to LifeZette. "Keep the economy moving forward. The stock market is a start — 31 record highs is an amazing number. Next, get tax reform done, and that means more jobs."

Tax reform won't be easy, though. While many assume it would be easier to push tax cuts through Congress than a repeal of Obamacare, some experts say tax reform as a whole could be more difficult than repealing the Affordable Care Act.

"The President has yet to spend his political capital on pushing for a growth agenda," said Robert Kaufman, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University.

Kill the Drama
There is too much drama from the West Wing, some said.

"The American people don't care about Washington gossip," said Gainor. "They care about being able to put food on the table."

The focus on minor leaks and intrigue surrounding Trump's complaints about the Russia investigation are all noise to most Americans, even to Trump supporters, some pundits told LifeZette.

Trump also may have hurt himself when he attacked one of his most loyal allies, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, for recusing himself from the Russia investigation. And the upheaval in the White House communications department has contributed to a sense of drama in the Trump administration.

"Discipline," said Kaufman, speaking of what he wanted to see from the White House. "The recent fiasco with (fired Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci) amplified the worst suspicions about the president's seriousness.  I give him credit for recognizing and rectifying the mistake immediately.  Gen. John Kelly is a fine choice [for chief of staff]."

Kelly fired Scaramucci on Monday. But there needs to be more done, and less said, to alleviate widespread concerns about the president's ability to run a quiet operation.

"I'd lay off the tweets for a while with the new chief of staff," said Andrew Malcolm, a conservative columnist with McClatchy.

Plan to Kill Obamacare, Sooner or Later
Kaufman said Trump must still engineer the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Repeal failed in the Senate in late July, but efforts are not quite dead yet.

Trump must sell the new plan.

"Republicans in Congress were derelict in complaining about Obamacare for eight years, without devising a plausible alternative plan," said Kaufman. "You cannot beat something with nothing. We need an alternative, and the president must take the lead. Or gridlock will ensue to the benefit of the far-left agenda of the Democrats."

After Trump spent so many weeks promising to take action on Obamacare, a failure to deliver health care legislation could dent the president's credibility. And repealing Obamacare is one of the only policy promises Trump explicitly shares with Republicans in Congress.

Be Consistent
The president often gets distracted with petty fights, Kaufman said, and does not capitalize on good press when he wins it, even just a few days earlier.

"The president has many good days and says many good things," he said. "He won the war against ISIS that would still languish had Hillary Clinton became president. He gave an outstanding speech in Poland defending the values of Western civilization. Too often, however the president loses interest, lets his opponents bait him, and does not follow through. This has to stop."

For example, Trump stole attention in late June from the passage of Kate's Law, an immigration bill he backed, by firing off a series of tweets deriding MSNBC hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough.

Don't Waste Time
If Trump wants some big signature moves to change his ailing poll numbers, he needs to move faster, more efficiently, and in a focused way.

He may have another three and a half years (or seven and a half years), but the first year of any presidency is crucial to setting the tone and pace for the remainder of an administration.

"Most presidents achieve their most landmark domestic legislation in the first six to eight months of their administrations, before resistance builds and we move into the next election cycle, paralyzing initiative," said Kaufman.

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