How Unpopular Could Trump Be?


There is one line of thinking that President Trump, despite his record low approval rating, has a floor in terms of how low he can go.

Part of this is in comparison to former Presidents. However, Trump is a bit unique in that he reached the White House through untraditional means. He wasn’t a former Governor, Senator or top cabinet official. Presidents before him had to win major elections multiple times, or at least serve in public office in a very prominent way for several years. Because Trump hasn’t done that, I wonder if the rules are a bit different.

Looking at Presidents since the 1960s, JFK and LBJ were re-elected Senators, while Richard Nixon had won statewide office, and served two terms as Vice President. Jimmy Carter had served a full term as Governor. Ronald Reagan served two. George HW Bush had served in multiple senior administration posts before serving two terms as Vice President. Bill Clinton had been elected Governor of Arkansas five times. George W Bush was re-elected Governor of Texas. Barack Obama might be the least experienced in the group, but he had won election as Senator, and been a national figure since his DNC keynote speech.

Instead of comparing Trump to former Presidents, who had to demonstrate an ability to excel in major political office, it’s possible he’s more like an outsider or lucky legislative backbencher who is elected Governor/ Senator. That suggests a different floor, akin to different executives. Chris Christie is leaving New Jersey with an approval rating near the single digits, and it’s not unprecedented for politicians to hit numbers like that.

There have been situations where Governors lose primaries, or basically get forced out of office. Jim Gibbons of Nevada didn’t even get thirty percent of the vote as an incumbent Republican Governor. Sarah Palin basically quit as Governor of Alaska after a disastrous year as a national figure. Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned after being convicted for perjury/ obstruction of justice. If Trump has more in common with those guys, his approval rating might be able to keep going down, changing the political conversation on what’s possible.

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at
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