Shutdown A Huge Political Loss For Trump

Regardless of whether or not you think Nancy Pelosi won the government shutdown, Donald Trump clearly lost.

With the thirty-five day shutdown at an end, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows that the President and his party have suffered significant political damage:

Public disapproval of President Trump has swelled five points to 58 percent over three months as a majority of Americans continue to hold him and congressional Republicans most responsible for the partial federal government shutdown that ended Friday, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

In addition, more than 1 in 5 Americans say they were personally inconvenienced by the ­record-long shutdown, which ended after lawmakers and the White House reached agreement on a three-week continuing resolution to reopen government agencies that had been shuttered for 35 days.

The deal left Trump without a victory in his battle for a border wall but also provided him a chance to keep fighting. Congressional leaders agreed to try to resolve the spending fight over border security in a conference between the Republican-led Senate and Democrat-led House before the continuing resolution expires.

For Trump, the poll illustrates the political damage he sustained as he sought to please his conservative base by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, his top campaign promise.

The Post-ABC poll finds that Trump’s overall popularity has weakened, with 37 percent of the public approving of his job performance and 58 percent disapproving. In the previous Post-ABC poll just before November’s midterm elections in which Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, the approval-disapproval margin was narrower, at 40 percent to 53 percent.

Though the new survey finds that a 54 percent majority of Americans disapprove of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s performance during the shutdown, negative ratings for Trump on this question are higher, at 60 percent. And when asked who is most responsible, 53 percent blame Trump and congressional Republicans, while 34 percent blame Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democrats.

The 19 percentage-point margin of blame is slightly smaller than the 24-point margin in a Post-ABC poll roughly two weeks ago.

Among political independents, disapproval of Trump has grown from 53 percent at the start of November to 63 percent. Independents have also had a lopsided reaction to the shutdown, with 54 percent saying Trump and Republicans are more responsible for it, while 29 percent blame Pelosi and Democrats, a 25-point margin, slightly wider than the public as a whole.


Polls have consistently shown that a majority of Americans do not support the wall. The Post-ABC News poll finds that 54 percent oppose the project, with 42 percent supporting it, matching the results of a Post-ABC poll two weeks ago.

A separate question suggests majority support for increased border security efforts in general, with 54 percent saying the United States is doing “too little” to keep undocumented immigrants from coming into the country.4


Asked who they trust more to handle border security, 42 percent say they trust Pelosi and Democrats in Congress, while 40 percent trust Trump and Republicans. By comparison, a fall Post-ABC poll found Republicans overall held a 10-point advantage over Democrats on trust to handle border security among registered voters.

Earlier this week, I noted that the ongoing shutdown was having a decidedly negative view impact on the President’s job approval numbers across the board. Even the Rassmussen poll, which has a well-known pro-Administration bias, with just 45% of respondents approving of the President’s job approval while 54% disapprove. Similarly, the Fox News poll, which has generally been more consistent with other polling has the President’s job approval at 43% and his disapproval at 54%. This has resulted in a worsening of the President’s position in the poll averages. In the RealClearPolitics poll, the President’s numbers stand at 41.1% approve and 55.6% disapprove, for a deficit of -14.5 points. By way of comparison, on December 21st, before the shutdown began, the President’s approval stood at 42.8% and his disapproval at 51.5% for a deficit of  -8.7 points. In the FiveThirtyEight average, the President’s job approval stands at 39.3% and his disapproval stands at 56.0% for a deficit of -16.7 points. On December 21st, the average stood at 42.2% approval and 52.7% disapproval, for a deficit of -10.5 points.

While there may be some disagreement over the extent to which Nancy Pelosi deserves credit for a political win that seems in retrospect to have been inevitable, there can be no question that this entire thirty-five-day exercise was a massive political loss for the President. It began with the President saying that he’d welcome taking credit for a shutdown in the name of getting his wall only to see him back a Senate bill that would have kept the government open through February 8th and provide no funding for the wall. After objections from Ann Coulter and others, though, Trump reversed himself and said that he would only agree to a funding bill that provided $5.7 billion in funding for his wall, a move that sent us into what amounted to an utterly pointless shutdown that essentially resulted in the same bill that the President could have had before the shutdown even began. He gambled that he could somehow win this shutdown, and he lost big time.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. James Joyner says:

    I don’t think there’s any doubt on this. Indeed, I open my post questioning how much credit Pelosi deserves with the declaration, “President Trump’s bid to force the building of a border wall on the backs of civil servants was a complete and utter failure.” He’s got the likes of Ann Coulter calling him a “wimp.”

  2. Michael Reynolds says:

    There’s no question Trump was humiliated. Pelosi hitched up her strap-on, bent him over and gave it to him dry and hard. (Too graphic?)

    The issue is not whether Pelosi is Boudica reborn (kinda) or just a very tough professional (definitely), the issue is whether Trump was left bleeding and whimpering and threatening to call his daddy to beat her up, and that is a big, happy, “Yes!”

    For someone like Trump, and more importantly for people like his culties, having the Big Orange Alpha male spanked, beaten, destroyed, brought to his knees by a frail, bird-like grandma not once but twice in 24 hours is devastating. They can’t even absorb it, they’ve spun off into fantasy land where somehow that defeated, disheartened, depressed, rambling Rose Garden concession was a victory speech. But not all Trump’s toadies are capable of the total delusional thinking now required to take the sack of wind seriously.

    More importantly Trump was beaten before the Cowards of Congress, the servile invertebrates of the Republican caucus who were so cowed by the two-bit conman they willingly abandoned all that separated them from lower forms of animal. This is the moment when the wimps realize they’ve been bullied by a bigger wimp.

    And above it all is this fact: there’s not going to be a wall. If he declares an emergency and has US marshals seizing land in Texas and soldiers building, we’ll just appropriate funds necessary to tear it all down again and return the land to the dispossessed Texans and Arizonans. Probably hire Mexicans and Hondurans to do that job. Heh.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Inside Trump’s own camp, there appeared to be intense dismay. A Trump adviser offered a pretty stark assessment of what happened on the shutdown.
    “A humiliating loss for a man that rarely loses,” the adviser said. “I miss winning,”
    Acknowledging the new political reality with Pelosi in charge of the House, the adviser said the only way forward for Trump is “compromise.”
    The adviser went on to question whether Trump will continue to listen to aide Stephen Miller on immigration.
    “Today is not a cave, but a grave for Stephen Miller policies,” the adviser said, though it’s not clear at all that Trump is ready to make that kind of course correction.
    Trump himself tried to spin the decision as anything but a concession.
    “I wish people would read or listen to my words on the Border Wall. This was in no way a concession. It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it’s off to the races!” he tweeted Friday evening.

    Spinning like a top

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    He’s got the likes of Ann Coulter calling him a “wimp.”

    He is a wimp. Every time she yanks his chain he yelps like the lapdog he is.

  5. CSK says:


    “A man that never loses…”

    Seriously? What would this individual call four bankruptcies and the utter failure of Trump Airlines, Trump Magazine, Trump Steaks, Trump Vodka, Trump University. Trump Soho…

  6. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Pelosi hitched up her strap-on, bent him over and gave it to him dry and hard. (Too graphic?)

    Umm….yeah. Also, not appropriate. At all.

    @James Joyner:

    He’s got the likes of Ann Coulter calling him a “wimp.”

    Reinforcing my view that Trump is most vulnerable on his right flank. They had to overlook a lot to get their goodies. If they don’t get the goodies, they’re overlooking a lot for nothing.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Pearce, you swore Trump would win and Pelosi would lose. You were 100% wrong. Now you’re 100% dishonest. At least be man enough to admit it.

    You’re as big a weakling as Trump. But at least he’s just a giant ass, you’re the one licking said giant ass.

    Too graphic? Don’t care. I was right, you were wrong, and you were wrong because as I’ve been saying, you know absolutely nothing about politics. You are invincibly stupid.

  8. CSK says:

    So can we now refer to Trump as a…”Nancy boy”?

  9. Liberal Capitalist says:


    The New York Times today documents over 100 specific contacts (who, when and what) between Trump, the Trump Campaign and Russia before the inauguration.

    This flies directly in the face of Trump and Trump administration spokespeople in their denial of not having any contacts with Russia leading up to the Trump presidency.

  10. Erik says:

    @CSK: they would call it “fake news” of course

  11. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Pearce, you swore Trump would win and Pelosi would lose

    Pelosi (and all the Democrats and the Federal workforce and some Republican dissenters) “forced” Trump to re-open the government for 3 weeks as he vows to keep on fighting, either with a national emergency order or some other BS, and you’re over here pumping your fist and concocting rape fantasies?

    The battle’s still raging. Keep your helmet on.

  12. Blue Galangal says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: My question is, when has he ever won? In some alternate universe? I mean, he’s won at separating children from families and losing their paperwork. He’s won at making himself a world-wide laughingstock. He’s won at tanking the EPA and the DOE. He’s won at collecting emoluments. But as far as legislative victories… what am I missing? The tax cut for millionaires? I guess?

  13. Mikey says:

    Trump can say what he wants. It has become obvious there is nothing behind it. That’s what his utter capitulation, on both the SOTU and the shutdown, has proven.

    Sure, there are still some dead-enders who believe this is part of some master strategy on his part–“He’s not retreating, he’s repositioning! He’ll keep on fighting!”–but the truth is now evident to all.

    It’s not often I agree with Lindsey Graham, but he was spot-on when he said this early in the shutdown: “If he gives in now, that’s the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective President, that’s probably the end of his Presidency.”

    Trump gave in. It’s over, and the Democrats won. The most he’ll get now is some face-saving sop that he’ll try to spin as a victory, but it’s fully apparent now: the emperor has no clothes.

    He’s a loser.

  14. Teve says:

    I award Michael 5 points for the Boudica reference.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @Mikey: He’s always been a loser, puffed up with money from Daddy and from the Russian mafia. All he’s done all his life is to bluff and look for marks to con money from.

    This is the clown who wanted to put marble sinks in the Trump Shuttle airplanes. We’re not talking about high IQ here.

  16. Michael says:

    We finally got someone in a position of power who could not be primaried by the Trumpinistas. The GOP runs against Pelosi every cycle, this time they lost and the American people won one for a change.

  17. Kathy says:

    Courtesy of the old Roadrunner cartoons, I found a new nickname for Dennison: Nemesis ridiculi.

  18. Teve says:

    @grumpy realist: I remember hearing something like about the marble sinks and gold-plated fixtures, but I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t just repeating bullshit rumors like some Common Trumper so I looked it up. This is from WaPo:

    Trump had the idea for a “diamond in the sky,” an airline mirroring his casino and hotel’s motif of splashed marble, gold and plush, according to the book “Trump Revealed” by Post staffers Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher. But the airline quickly found luxury was impractical on the airplane, its crew and the customers themselves.

    Marble sinks were too heavy on the airframe, where every inch is scrutinized to save space and weight, so faux-marble was installed. Thick burgundy carpets made it difficult for flight attendants to move their beverage and food carts. Trump advised the attendants to push harder, Kranish and Fisher wrote. And despite customer surveys touting on-time flights and consistent schedules as their main needs, Trump insisted on gold-plated fixtures, leather seats and chrome buckles for flights that typically took less than an hour.

    “My argument at the time, which fell on deaf ears, was no one was going to fly on our planes because they looked better. He disagreed because his modus operandi was to make things look flashier than anyone else,” recounted the shuttle’s former president, Bruce R. Nobles, to the Boston Globe.

    Those upgrades amounted to about $1 million for every plane, with each aging airframe worth only about $4 million. Trump offered at times bewildering suggestions to save money elsewhere, such as reducing the cockpit crew from three to two. Nobles reminded Trump that Federal Aviation Administration regulations required a pilot, a co-pilot and an engineer, Kranish and Fisher wrote.

    What a dumbass.

  19. CSK says:


    Wait a minute, wait a minute. Didn’t Trump just say that he knows all about engineering? I assume that includes aeronautical engineering.

  20. MarkedMan says:


    It’s not often I agree with Lindsey Graham

    You bring up an interesting question. Which way will Lindsey the wind sock be blowing tomorrow?

  21. An Interested Party says:

    The New York Times today documents over 100 specific contacts (who, when and what) between Trump, the Trump Campaign and Russia before the inauguration.

    OMG!!!! I’m shocked!!!! Aren’t you?

    The battle’s still raging.

    I’m sure you’ll use that same line when he loses again…and again…and again…

  22. Kathy says:


    He’s not done ruining airlines, or trying to anyway.

    Over the course of the shut down, several developments in aviation were put on hold or delayed:

    Commencement of commercial operations at Paine Field in Seattle.
    Commencement of Southwest flights to Hawaii.
    Entry into service of the A220-100 (formerly CS 100) with Delta.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    Boudica is one of my ‘some day. . .’ projects. It’s a great story, with a genuine female lead, an actual real life bad-ass woman fighter, not some Tauriel retrofit. And no one has made a decent movie about it. Why? No cheesy love triangle, and Boudica was not, by contemporary standards, a nice person. She had no reason to be nice, she’d had to watch her daughters be gang-raped by Roman soldiers and endure a severe beating herself. When Boudica went out for revenge she did not screw around, she massacred.

    You either have to do a feature that tells the actual historical story (as much as we know, which ain’t much) or you drain all the good stuff in order to make it studio ready. Or, you go TV and extend the universe GOT style. The gift Boudica gave a future TV writer is that no one knows what happened to her after the Romans beat her army. Did she survive? If so how and where? You could easily do a grittier Xena; Warrior Princess riff.

    It frustrates me because Hollywood just does not seem to have a way to cope with an actual female action hero with depth and nuance and shades of gray. I could write this with my eyes closed, but who’d make it?

  24. Blue Galangal says:

    @Michael Reynolds: With all due respect, Michael, Jessica Jones? Buffy? These are both TV, though, so apologies if I misunderstood in terms of films. (Although I think it’s more difficult to do nuance in a 2-hr film, but, on the other hand, Black Panther managed it.)

    It’s also interesting to compare Boudica to Cartimandua (e.g., Tacitus’ treatment of both). I just ran across this journal article while looking for something else, so I pass it on for your amusement.

    Richmond, I. A. “Queen Cartimandua.” The Journal of Roman Studies 44 (1954): 43-52. doi:10.2307/297554.