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Trump and GOP taking messaging hit on shutdown

Hill Republicans are now stuck in a situation where their lead messenger’s appeal is designed for base voters and isn’t speaking to the broader American public. | Andrew Harnik/AP Photo

President Donald Trump and Republicans are losing the messaging war on the government shutdown.

The shutdown is now the longest in U.S. history, entering its 23rd day, and there appears to be no end in sight. As Trump repeatedly declares he won’t reopen the government unless he gets funding for his border wall, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are adamant that they will not fund the project.

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Trump’s message on the shutdown — blaming Democrats for refusing to concede on his border wall — isn’t convincing the American public. Instead, the majority of Americans think Trump and Republicans are at fault for the shutdown, according to two new polls. A Washington Post-ABC News found that 53 percent of respondents blamed Trump and Republicans in Congress for the shutdown, while 29 percent blamed Democrats. Thirteen percent of respondents said both sides were equally to blame.

Another poll from CNN found that 55 percent of respondents blamed Trump, while 32 percent blamed Democrats. Nine percent blamed both sides.

Trump’s disapproval ratings are also rising, with the CNN poll showing his overall rating getting worse by 5 percentage points since the shutdown started.

With Democrats refusing to approve any money for the wall — while insisting Trump reopen the government even while negotiations continue — Hill Republicans are now trapped in a situation where their lead messenger’s appeal is designed for base voters and isn’t speaking to the broader American public.

Yet in what could be a troubling omen for any deal to end the stalemate, Trump’s message on the wall is growing more popular with Republicans, according to both polls.

That means that while the broader American public doesn’t like what it’s hearing from the White House, GOP voters do. Thus, crossing the aisle and voting with Democrats may become even harder for wobbly Republicans who want to reopen the government. So far, only a dozen House Republicans have done so, as well as three GOP senators.

Despite the bad poll numbers, Trump isn’t showing any signs of giving in, even as some of the 800,000 federal employees hit by the shutdown have had to go to food banks to eat, begun driving for Uber, or even selling household goods online to pay their bills.

The president took to Twitter on Saturday to blast news reports that the White House doesn’t have a plan to end the government shutdown.

“The Fakes always like talking Chaos, there is NONE,” Trump tweeted. “In fact, there’s almost nobody in the W.H. but me …. I do have a plan on the Shutdown. But to understand that plan you would have to understand the fact that I won the election, and I promised safety and security for the American people. Part of that promise was a Wall at the Southern Border.”

U.S.-Canada border as seen from Vermont

But it’s unclear what the president’s plan is to end the government shutdown — or to convince Democrats to yield. Trump has changed his position several times in the last week on whether he would go around Congress to get his border wall and declare a national emergency. Last week, Trump told reporters: “I may decide a national emergency depending on what happens over the next few days.” But by Friday, he appeared to be less convinced, telling reporters “what we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency.”

In a Fox News interview with Jeanine Pirro on Saturday, Trump said that he was waiting on Democrats before he would declare a national emergency.

“I have the absolute right to call a national emergency,” he said. “I’d rather see that Democrats come back from their vacation and act. They’re not acting and they’re the ones that are holding it up. It would take me 15 minutes to get a deal done and everybody could go back to work, but I’d like to see them act responsibly.

Trump added that he has not left the White House “in months,” despite a trip last week to the southern border.

If there is a strategy, it’s unclear what that is. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday that he advised Trump to temporarily reopen the government for three weeks and try to negotiate with Democrats. If those talks fail, Graham said Trump could then declare a national emergency. But the president reiterated wants to make a deal on the wall, before re-opening the government, according to Graham.

“Before he pulls the plug on the legislative option and I think we’re almost there,” he said. “I would urge him to open up the government for a short period of time, like three weeks before he pulls the plug. See if we can get a deal if we can’t at the end of three weeks, all bets are off.”

Ron DeSantis

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) also defended the president Sunday and blamed Democrats for being unwilling to compromise.

“It is unacceptable that 800,000 U.S. employees are not being paid,” McCarthy said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.“ “You know what we’re arguing over? One-tenth of one percent of the federal budget. And it’s not as though we’re asking Democrats to do something they haven’t done before. They voted for border wall and fencing.”

He added that the shutdown could be resolved “in minutes” but said that “when the Democrats will not even make a counteroffer, it’s unacceptable.”

Democrats stuck by their position that Trump and Republicans should allow the government to reopen first, then try to reach an accord on the border wall.

“I will say this: we first should reopen government. Why punish people who are applying for food stamps because the president is having a temper tantrum?,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said on NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“What we don’t want to do is waste taxpayer money on a vanity project that’s ineffective, that the president said Mexico would pay for. But spending massive amounts on border security to keep us safe, Democrats do it over and over again and it’s been Republicans that have been blocking it.”

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