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Republican voters are taking President Donald Trump’s side over that of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in the pair’s latest dustup, a Wednesday poll showed, and that could spell trouble for Republicans seeking to distance themselves from the president after his recent remarks on the violent white supremacist incident in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend.
The poll, conducted by Morning Consult, found that 52% of Republican voters said Trump is looking out for Republicans’ best interests, while just 25% said McConnell was. Asked who is more in touch with Republican voters, 60% said Trump while just 16% said McConnell. In terms of who is more trustful, 57% said Trump and 14% said McConnell.
Even on policy itself, 41% said Trump, a political neophyte, is more knowledgeable. For McConnell, 34% of respondents said the Kentucky Republican who has served in the Senate for more than three decades is more knowledgeable than Trump on policy.
Additionally, McConnell saw his own approval rating among Republican voters dip from 39% to 33% in just two weeks. His unfavorable rating rose from 29% to 34%.
“By targeting Mitch McConnell, President Trump has once again demonstrated how much influence he wields within the Republican base,” Kyle Dropp, Morning Consult’s co-founder and chief research officer, said.
Morning Consult asked the questions following a feud last week between Trump and McConnell.
Last Wednesday, McConnell said Trump has “excessive expectations” as to what the GOP Congress can accomplish. That led to Trump blasting McConnell on Twitter.
“Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,” Trump tweeted last Wednesday. “After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?”
Trump asked McConnell on Thursday to “get back to work” and pass legislation related to healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure, adding, “You can do it!”
“Can you believe that Mitch McConnell, who has screamed Repeal & Replace for 7 years, couldn’t get it done,” Trump tweeted. “Must Repeal & Replace ObamaCare!”
While GOP voters sided with Trump, as 50% said the Twitter attacks were appropriate while 32% said they were not, they were less sure that the attacks would be beneficial to the GOP agenda passing. On that question, 26% said the attacks will help Republicans pass key legislation on subjects such as healthcare and tax reform while 35% said the attacks will hurt the chances of passing such legislation.
The poll, which has a margin of error of two percentage points, was conducted from August 10-14, and 1,997 registered voters were surveyed. About half of the interviews Morning Consult conducted happened before the violent white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville.
Violent attacks in the city that is home to the University of Virginia left one counterprotester dead after a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of people, injuring roughly 20 additional people. White nationalists came to Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert. E. Lee.
After initially blaming the violence on “both sides,” Trump condemned the racist movements on Monday. But during a Tuesday press conference at Trump Tower that was supposed to focus on infrastructure, Trump reverted to his earlier position, claiming that the “alt-left” was at least partially responsible for the violence as well and wondering whether the counter-protesters have any “semblance of guilt.”
“You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down of, to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name,” he said of “some” of those who were involved in the white nationalist protest.
“And you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists – because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists. Okay?” he added. “And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly.”
The comments were some of the most widely-panned remarks of his presidency, with members of both parties saying that Trump is wrong to invoke any moral equivalency between white supremacists and those who were in Charlottesville protesting their presence.
Even though a number of Republican officials specifically criticized Trump’s response to the violence, many Republicans did not mention Trump in their comments on the incident.
In a Wednesday statement, which followed Trump’s news conference, McConnell himself refrained from mentioning Trump’s remarks, although he did allude to them by saying “there are no good neo-nazis.”
David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and a CNN commentator, said the reason why Republicans have been “cautious” in their responses to Charlottesville is “simple.”
“Why are so many Rs cautious on #Charlotteville?” he tweeted Wednesday. “Pretty simple: Because @POTUS, even now, remains popular w/many of their voters.”