- REUTERS/Leah Millis
- President Donald Trump has been much more subdued since the “shithole countries” news cycle.
- He has delivered six speeches in the past couple of weeks without stepping on his intended message.
- On Twitter, he’s been much more restrained.
President Donald Trump has been relatively subdued in recent weeks – and his poll numbers have spiked.
The trend can be traced back to the passing of the news cycle about his “shithole countries” remark from the middle of last month. In the weeks that followed, he has only posted a handful of acerbic or unnecessary tweets – virtually unprecedented for such a length of time – and delivered a series of speeches that remained on message.
It’s a frequent occurrence for Trump to initiate a days- or weeks-long news cycle on a subject unrelated to the message he and his administration were trying to drive home.
And the trend has been noticed by observers.
“I have noticed,” Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and communications director for Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, told Business Insider in an email. “The president’s shown more message discipline in the last month than he did in all of 2017. It’s directly correlated with general improvement in his poll numbers.”
Conant is right about the correlation between Trump’s weeks of relative calm and the improved polling. On Thursday, Trump’s approval rating reached its highest point in months, according to the RealClearPolitics aggregate of polls.
Trump began February with a 41.5% approval rating in RCP. It was his highest rating since he hit 41.7% on September 24, and it was just the second time his average rating was 41.5% or higher since mid-May.
‘It’s very clear that he’s cognizant of not stepping on himself and not stepping on his own news cycle’
The improved rating came on the heels of three polls published following Trump’s State of the Union address. Both an Economist/YouGov poll and a Monmouth University survey found Trump’s approval rating to be 44%, while a right-leaning Rasmussen poll put Trump’s approval rating at 45%.
The State of the Union address itself polled well among an audience that was skewed a bit more conservative than the voting populace at large and featured Trump touting his first-year accomplishments in addition to calling for revitalizing US infrastructure and overhauling the immigration system. In addition to that speech, which saw Trump stay firmly on message, the president has delivered five speeches since mid-January that have all remained on point.
They included remarks on tax cuts and the economy at H&K Equipment outside of Pittsburgh, his speech at the March for Life, the address he delivered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the swearing in of Alex Azar as Health and Human Services secretary, and his Thursday speech to House and Senate Republicans at their retreat in West Virginia.
- Win McNamee/Getty Images
Each of those addresses were a far cry from what most are accustomed to seeing from Trump along the campaign trail, during rallies, or even during similar speeches he’s delivered while occupying the Oval Office.
“I think he has gotten a lot better at driving a message,” a former White House official told Business Insider. “He’s always been extremely talented at putting a message out there, but I think he’s gotten really good at letting something just stay out.”
“It’s very clear that he’s cognizant of not stepping on himself and not stepping on his own news cycle,” they added. “I think that’s what we’ve seen recently where he’s left a little bit of room for people to breathe. The State of the Union happened and I think after it, a lot of people were expecting some sort of tweet that would step on that news cycle. That didn’t happen.”
Indeed, that wasn’t the only time the president decided to remain a bit calmer on Twitter during this time. Save for a couple of tweets about “Cryin” Chuck Schumer, responding to a comment from music mogul Jay-Z, and commenting on the text messages sent between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, the president hasn’t sparked much – if any – news with his tweets since the middle of last month. He even went three days without tweeting at all, save for one post that was clearly set up by a staffer.
Again, that’s virtually unheard of for a stretch of time that long. And it’s during a time when plenty is going on in the background.
The Russia investigation is seemingly reaching a climax, with officials such as FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe being shown the door, a potentially explosive Republican memo from the House Intelligence Committee causing tension between the White House and Justice Department, and reports that Trump himself has sought to push out Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein or even special counsel Robert Mueller.
Plus, there was a three-day government shutdown that occurred during this time. But Trump was able come out on top, at least in the short term, by staying on the sidelines.
The former White House official said they did not know if there was a specific triggering event that led to the sudden change in Trump’s demeanor, but added that the president is “reaping” the benefits of such a change.
“I think he figured out really quickly that a big important thing in politics is to not step on your own message, to not step on your own good news cycle,” the former official said. “I think he’s been very effective over the last couple days and weeks at doing that.”