I probably don’t have to alert readers that Donald Trump’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday got rave reviews from conservatives, the mainstream media, and even some liberals. The paroxysms of praise for it on CNN were remarkable, particularly given the president’s attacks on the network. On the pro-Trump right, the reaction was typified by this headline over a Roger L. Simon column at PJ Media: “Is February 28, 2017, ‘The Night the Democratic Party Died’?” And the public sure seemed to like it according to the snap polls conducted in the wake of the address. Even curmudgeons like yours truly conceded the speech was well-delivered, if not terribly substantive.
Here’s the thing, though: You’d think a speech that so many observers thought had changed American politics forever, or at least changed the trajectory of the Trump era of American politics, would have produced an immediate and sizable “bump” in Trump’s less-than-sterling job-approval ratings. So far, it just hasn’t.
The traditional arbiter of these things, Gallup, which has done a daily tracking poll of presidential job approval since the Van Buren administration or so, had Trump at 43/52 the day of his speech. The day after he was at 43/51. Rasmussen had Trump at 50/50 on both days (though he did move up to 52/48 today, down a net point from where he was on February 24). Economist/YouGov had a poll that included some post-speech data. It showed Trump’s job-approval rating at 45/51, a deterioration from 48/48 last week.
Yes, I know, it’s early days, and it’s possible it’s taking some time for Trump’s distinctly non-feral performance, or media approbation of same, to sink in. But on the other hand, positive impressions from single events like a speech with a middling TV audience tend to wear off pretty fast, too. If Trump’s speech was really the epochal event some of his fans and even some of his detractors believed it was, we should be seeing major evidence of that in how Americans feel about their president. So far, it ain’t happening. Trump should probably try to behave himself a bit longer.