In the wake of the terrorist attack in Orlando, battle lines were clearly drawn. Donald Trump claimed credit for sounding warnings about Islamic terrorism and called, once again, for a suspension of immigration from predominantly Muslim countries. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton expressed outrage at Trump’s reaction and doubled down on the claim that Islamic terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. That, together with the assertion that being selective about immigration is “not who we are.”
My instinct was that Trump decisively won the political battle. (I also think he is right as a matter of policy, of course.) However, early poll results suggest that assessment may be wrong. A CBS News poll out this morning says that most Americans agree with Barack Obama, not Trump:
A CBS News poll conducted in the days since the attack finds 51 percent of those surveyed said they did not like the way Trump was handling the shooting. … Just 25 percent of those surveyed said they approved of Trump’s reaction.
The numbers for President Barack Obama’s handling of the shooting are much better. Forty-four percent of Americans gave Obama high marks for his response, while 34 percent gave him an unfavorable rating.
I find that rather shocking, given that Trump was right when he said Obama was more angry at Trump than he was at the terrorist.
For whatever reason–perhaps merely the fact that her statements weren’t as widely covered as Trump’s and Obama’s–voters have a less clear reaction to Hillary’s response to the attack:
Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s response rating was split, with 36 percent favorable, 34 percent unfavorable and 30 percent of respondents saying they did not know or did not answer.
These results are disturbing. Maybe they confirm, once again, that America is now a center-left country, rather than center-right. Maybe the cause is narrower: the Democrats have succeeded in demonizing Trump to the point that most people will disapprove, no matter what he says. Maybe the problem is partly due to the fact that a number of prominent Republicans have joined in the attacks on Trump, thereby isolating him. In any event, the fact (assuming this CBS poll is representative) most Americans’ first instinct is to side with Obama’s view of terrorism rather than Trump’s is discouraging. This should be Trump’s strongest suit.