As the shutdown of the federal government began its 14th day Thursday morning, press criticism of the president continued over his insistence on funding for a border wall before signing the appropriations bill that would reopen parts of official Washington.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll among likely voters nationwide showed 47 percent blamed President Trump for the shutdown, 33 percent blamed congressional Democrats, and 20 percent had no opinion.
But, to a person, four seasoned Republican consultants and pollsters who spoke to Newsmax agreed the president — even as several office-holders from his own party had broken with him over the shutdown — was probably making the right political move in refusing to sign any measure without "wall funding."
"Yes, he is," Matt Towery, veteran Georgia Republican consultant, told us. "Very few Americans are worked up over this shutdown. Trump's smartest move was to remain in Washington while the Democratic leaders left for the holidays. In my experience shutdowns rarely are that big of a deal with the public."
Referring to fellow Georgian and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Towery pointed out "even Newt's two shutdowns ultimately had little impact on him, despite media efforts to portray him as 'the Grinch' during a similar shutdown during the holiday season. The question is, how many Americans would really care if a large part of the federal government just went away entirely? Probably only the core Democratic base."
Jeff Roe, manager of Ted Cruz's presidential bid in 2016, was even stronger in his view Trump was on the right political course.
"It's better than that," Roe said. "The most essential elements of government are open; therefore, the pressure is actually on the Democrats because the union members [among] the furloughed employees are actually the ones feeling the pain. This will bring the pressure on Democrats to reopen government."
Roe also noted "the topic of the shutdown – border security – is a winning issue and [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi will be pressured to strike a deal to not look petty and political. Thus, the [Reuters/Ipsos] poll numbers are not the real issue. It will become political to not build a fence and that is a policy winner."
"Doing the right thing means not looking at the polls," veteran North Carolina GOP consultant Marc Rotterman told Newsmax. "Ninety percent of the heroin that comes into the country comes from Mexico. The estimated cost of illegal immigration to the taxpayer is 135 billion dollars a year."
In Rotterman's words, "It's hard to see how America can have unfettered illegal immigration and an expanding welfare state. And we sadly learned once again of the danger gangs and their affiliates present to law enforcement."
Chip Saltsman, who managed Mike Huckabee's 2008 presidential bid, called the current impasse between Trump and Congress "a line in the sand moment for both sides."
"Each side's base are the ones watching every move," he said. "Trump is playing his hand well to date. But there are cards left to be dealt. I believe Trump sees this as a defining moment, and he will not blink."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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