Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech pleases viewers, Republicans

February 7, 2019

Judging from viewers’ reaction to his State of the Union address, the smiling President Trump who wants to approve paid family leave, rebuild infrastructure and protect patients with pre-existing conditions has a good chance of winning re-election in 2020.

Instant polls taken by CBS and CNN after Tuesday night’s speech found that Mr. Trump’s call for bipartisan compromise on programs for the middle class struck pay dirt with voters.

The CBS survey showed 76 percent of people who watched the speech approved of Mr. Trump’s performance, including 82 percent of independents and even 30 percent of Democrats. Among Republicans, 97 percent liked the his speech.

The CNN poll found that 59 percent of viewers had a very positive reaction to Mr. Trump’s speech, and 17 percent had a “somewhat positive” response.

Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said the reaction was “the exact opposite of what leftists in [the] media thought would happen.”

While the surveys are only quick snapshots of voters’ impressions, it’s a significant change for a president whose job-approval rating has been hovering around 40 percent.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer compared Mr. Trump’s delivery to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, reaching out to his audience on family-friendly issues such as drug pricing but dividing viewers on immigration and abortion.

Democratic strategist Jim Manley called the president’s proposals to combat HIV transmission, fight childhood cancer and enact paid family leave “modest proposals designed to appeal to bipartisanship, wrapped up in a pretty ugly and divisive speech.”

He especially criticized the president’s warning that he won’t work with Democrats if they engage in what Mr. Trump called “ridiculous partisan investigations” of his administration.

“If he and his team thought this was a speech that was going to focus on bipartisanship and outreach to Democrats, I think they failed miserably,” Mr. Manley said. “There’s very little, if anything, in that speech that appealed to Democrats, especially his rhetoric on immigration, and the threat, implied or otherwise, that there will be lack of legislation if Democrats investigate the Trump administration.”

As if on cue, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, California Democrat, announced Wednesday that the panel will launch a sweeping investigation into the president’s ties to Russia and his personal finances. Mr. Trump called Mr. Schiff a “political hack” who has “no basis” for the probe.

Dial-meter research by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg during the State of the Union speech showed that voters gave Mr. Trump some of their most favorable reactions of the night when he talked about pre-existing conditions, bipartisan cooperation on infrastructure and lowering drug prices, Mr. Greenberg noted on Twitter.

Said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican: “Both the tone and the substance of his speech would strike any fair observer as reasonable and thoroughly bipartisan.”

But the president’s push to fund a border wall was panned, especially by Hispanics, blacks and millennials, Mr. Greenberg tweeted.

Mr. Trump’s well-received performance also prompted a warning for Democrats about 2020 from none other than Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for adult film actress Stormy Daniels and a fierce Trump critic who briefly toyed with a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. He tweeted that the State of the Union speech “should serve as a wake-up call for Dems.”

“Trump is not to be underestimated in 2020,” Mr. Avenatti tweeted. “Too many people think the election will be a layup and he will be easily beaten. Not true. It will be an ugly battle for the future of the republic. And the Dems better find a fighter.”

He added: “For those that doubt me, go spend some time in key swing states like OH, MI, WI, PA and FL, talk to real working people (not just your friends that despise Trump), and then get back to me. 2020 will not be decided in CA and NY.”

Mr. Trump will hold his first campaign rally of the 2020 election cycle on Monday in El Paso, Texas, to draw attention to border security ahead of next week’s deadline in Congress for funding the Department of Homeland Security. The president is still requesting money for a border wall and Democratic leaders are still refusing, the same situation that led to a 35-day government shutdown that began in late December.

Update hourly