Editorials

Donald Trump is underwater in Missouri. Could he become a drag on Republicans?

Missouri AG Hawley uses ‘courage’ to describe President Trump

Trump welcomed Hawley, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, to the stage at the VFW's national convention.
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Trump welcomed Hawley, the frontrunner for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, to the stage at the VFW's national convention.

Most of us can agree that President Donald Trump has had better weeks than the last one.

Anytime the leader of the free world is sending out one-word “TREASON” tweets, it’s a dead giveaway that something is amiss in the Oval Office. The tweet was in response to that anonymous op-ed in The New York Times detailing an organized underground resistance in the West Wing.

But that wasn’t the only blow Trump absorbed in recent days. Bob Woodward’s astonishing new book about Trump’s “nervous breakdown” of a presidency painted a portrait of a commander in chief unhinged. Even the administration’s vehement denials and denouncements aren’t doing much to calm this latest crisis of confidence.

All of that begins to explain why a new Missouri poll is so troubling. It raises serious questions about Trump’s standing in a state he carried in 2016 by 19 points. What’s more, the pollster was in the field in late August prior to the release of the op-ed and the news about Woodward’s book.

The headline out of the NBC News/Marist survey was that Republican Josh Hawley and Democrat Claire McCaskill were knotted up in their race for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat. The poll found that the two were tied at 47 percent each.

The real jaw-dropper, though, was the revelation that likely voters in Missouri who view the president unfavorably now outnumber those who view him favorably. The split: 44 percent of likely voters had a positive view of Trump compared with 50 percent with a negative perception.

Ask the question in a slightly different way — do you approve of the president’s job performance? — and the numbers stay about the same. Some 45 percent of likely voters said they approved of his work so far compared to 46 percent who disapproved.

Those findings are within the poll’s 3.9 percent margin of error. And, yes, it’s only one poll. But still, it presents a dramatically different portrait of the president in a region of the country where he’s been hailed as a conquering hero since the 2016 election. It’s the first reputable poll that political insiders have seen that had Trump upside down in Missouri.

“We’re seeing the impact of his policies, and they’re hurting Missouri,” said Stephen Webber, chairman of the state Democratic Party.

All of this raises real questions about the fate of the Missouri GOP in this year’s mid-term elections and particularly those candidates, such as Hawley, who have tied themselves so closely to Trump.

“How about the leadership of President Donald Trump?” Hawley intoned in July at the VFW National Convention in Kansas City with Trump standing beside him. “When I think about President Trump, there’s one word that comes to mind, and that word is `courage’ — do you agree?”

Perhaps candidates such as Hawley are expecting Trump to boost them over the finish line like he did two years ago in bailing out Roy Blunt in a tough Senate race. Trump surely was a factor in Kris Kobach’s victory in the GOP race for Kansas governor last month, tweeting his endorsement the day before the Republican primary that Kobach narrowly won.

But the way Trump is trending these days, Hawley and other Republicans might want to rethink their all-in allegiance to the president. Even in Republican-controlled Missouri, Trump appears to be transitioning from a not-so-secret weapon to a potential drag on GOP candidates.

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